Valedico (to Say Goodbye)
Alicia Malden-Bullard, Grade 10, Irene McCormack Catholic College
‘Valedico’ (to say goodbye-Latin)
Coming like a plague, impossible to kill; taking hold of her mind, spirit and will. ‘It’ is my nana, her life, her soul. Slowly it erases who she really is. It takes her mind and swallows her whole. The light in her eyes was gone long ago; the seams in her mind, I need to re-sow. Does it mean that I don’t see? Does it mean that I forget? No, because for sixteen years it’s been with her, making her bleed out, until there’s nothing left.
The mind is a powerful thing. In truth, it makes us angry; it makes us sad; it makes us fall in love and in the end it tears us apart. I ponder on this thought while I sit in the armchair opposite my nana as she unfurls a web of hidden emotion right in front of me. She writes with shaking hands because she cannot communicate very well anymore but her message is clear.
My nana has dementia. It’s a disease of the mind that’s basically a brother of Alzheimer’s. The doctors used to say we should be thankful that nana didn’t have that but I think that ‘thanks’ is hardly appropriate. In a nutshell, dementia is a criminal. It’s stolen my nana away from me; stolen her voice, stolen her life. My nana knows that there’s nothing left for her because even though she may be alive and functioning, it’s just a façade. Emptiness doesn’t have to be measured in a cup; I can see it in her eyes.
She’s often mused about going to sleep forever, like a peaceful dream awaits her. Maybe it’s the truth. Maybe suicide will make everything better when life promises nothing else. She writes; ‘with the pills’. I find it ironic that they’ve shoved pills down her throat all this time, with no effect, and now she wants to do exactly what they’ve been trying to prevent. However, by her line of reasoning, no one will ever suspect the pills.
I put on her favourite music, Debussy and watch as she downs them, one at a time, like little memories she’s locking away forever. I’m not sure what is meant to happen. I know the pills are very strong but what they will do together is a mystery. Watching me steadily, nana whispers something, for the first time in years;
“Life is eternal…and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. A quote…from Rossiter Worthington Raymond.”
So in truth, with one last breath, it is not the end. But ‘goodbye’ still feels like forever. And reality is the biggest lie we’ve ever been told; it doesn’t give us the truth; it gives us what we want to hear but sometimes, like for my nana, all we hear is a faint humming noise that eventually drives us into the light. If I heard nothing, I’d want to go too.