And also, this might sound crass, but I miss her house. I wake up in the night sometimes and the feel of being there is so vivid, and I can't believe I'll never be there again. I almost miss it more than her. How can that be?
A kind friend leant me The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It's a cool analysis of her experiences when her husband died. They were almost inseparable, so her grief was very intense. It's about the disconnection and odd mental strategies you have to use to cope with loss. I recommend it to people in such a situation.
As I was driving to the hospital to see her for the last time a poem by Gerald Manly Hopkins ('to a young child') kept going through my mind. When I was sitting next to her bed I opened a book of poetry and it almost fell open at that poem. Didion also quotes this poem, towards the end of her book. I think it has special resonance for bereaved people. It is a poem about a young girl, Margaret, grieving that the leaves are falling off the trees. Hopkins tell her that she is really grieving for her own mortality:
'Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.'
Another, more optimistic poem, which is almost an antidote to that one, is The Trees by Philip Larkin (not normally an optimistic poet). I've read it often lately:
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.