She spent most of the time crying, and begging to be allowed to go home to 'my Joe'. It was really quite pitiful and I'm ashamed to say that my severely limited supply of compassion quickly depleted. Sally never knew this of course; nor did my colleagues - I am such an accomplished actress that even my most despised enemies go around believing I am their bosom buddy. But don't hate me for it - I get by how I can :(
Sally left after five days but she appeared again on December 17.... Joe had broken his ankle and was in hospital. Whilst he was there the doctors discovered he was riddled with cancer and had just a matter of days to live. Sally understood that Joe was very ill and that he didn't only have a broken ankle. And although it's not a hospice where I work Mac, our manager and Nadine, the matron pulled out all the stops to get Joe admitted to our place for his final few days. When the paramedics brought Joe into the room we'd prepared, next to Sally's, I couldn't believe that this wizened little old man had been caring for anybody all on his own, let alone Sally. She's not big, just a regular-sized pensioner but he seemed more dead than alive. Sally was in the lounge when Joe arrived last Wednesday afternoon, watching a special showing I'd laid on of 'White Christmas' so she didn't realise that he was there and I, in my wisdom, decided to let her watch the end of the movie, even though I knew I was going home before it ended.
You think you know what I'm going to say next, don't you?
You'd be wrong.
Joe survived until 7.30 the next morning. He and Sally had their reunion and she told me afterwards that he gave the biggest smile when he saw her face 'and he was my old Joe again'. Even though we hardly know Sally and we didn't know Joe at all we were all gutted for them...but happy too, in a melancholy way. Sally and Joe met when they were eight years old in the church choir. They liked each other then and always went back to each other. He was a joiner who provided for Sally and although they had no children of their own they were much-loved aunt and uncle to lots of nephews and nieces. Sally is sad but she knows he isn't in any more pain and she is thankful for all the years they had together. When she cries she says 'I'm so sorry, I know I shouldn't be doing this'. She is dignified in her distress because she says that 'Joe wouldn't want me to carry on like this. He'd say "Buck up Sally"'. I tell her that Joe hung on so he could see the face that was so precious to him one more time, and then he was able to go.
How lucky is Sally, that she's had that kind of love in her life? And how brave?
PS Because I detest New Year's Eve so much I have nobly volunteered to work a night shift tomorrow. If you go out please be careful! Love and luck to you all in 2012!