When I arrived, the first question was, "Am I going to die?"

She always left me the tough ones to answer.

It got easier after that. I spent two weeks at Amy's bedside. She was in her sixties, she'd had health problems for about five years, and they had finally come to a head.

From initial problems to initial fixes to parts cut out to cancer returned, hospital, end – it was a long process.


Palliative care. You don't just add drug upon drug until they coma-out and never wake up.

That's not what it's like on a daily basis. You see more than that.

You see the contorted face as the pain flares up again, you see the friends dropping by to visit who talk with varying degrees of honesty about what's happening.

There are doctors and (far more often) nurses, in and out several times a day, hauling drugs and needles and bedpans.

One of her best friends visited. She's in her early seventies, in a wheelchair since falling at the supermarket and breaking her leg some time ago. She may not walk again.

She insists she will, her husband insists she won't. You don't know who to believe.

But when she rolled into that room and jimmied around the sink and bags of food to get to the side of the bed, it was like nothing had changed. "I'll see you next week. The week after we'll go out for coffee and chips."

They've done that every week for years. She wasn't being naïve, just hopeful.


It was the last time they saw each other. But while they were together, even though one was bedridden and the other couldn't walk, they both gossiped like they used to.

"We're just a couple of old suckers," Amy said.

There were funny moments. I served as bartender – orange juice, pineapple juice, apricot nectar, peach iced tea. Almost never water. She told everyone I made the best drinks.

Early on, she stuttered out, "A-A-A-A-Alex … is more generous."

She tried whatever I was drinking, energy drinks included. Red Bull: "It's like drinking perfume." She'd smash a strawberry milkshake in one long, long go, taking great walloping gulp after gulp, her swallows echoing around the room until the thing was done.

A strawberry milkshake with Bacardi is now an "Amy Special" (without Bacardi, it's a "Virgin Amy"). And she liked takeout too. She wasn't eating when we arrived. We found she was partial to whatever we had.


She was always funny. In hospital, even more so.

We used to watch The Chase whenever I was touring and coming through her town.

After the gig, I'd come home and we'd have supper, a hot drink each, and settle down to watch Bradley and The Vixen.

In the hospital, I watched clips of it with her. She'd wake up any hour of the night and talk with you like the lack of sleep hadn't got to her.

Alexander Sparrow is a writer, actor, and award-winning comedian.
Alexander Sparrow is a writer, actor, and award-winning comedian.

There were hiccoughs. A pill for nerve pain was occasionally missed because she was asleep and when she did wake up she was feeling it, every pinch like nails driving in, or broken glass.

She needed an air mattress to reduce the risk of bedsores and to take the pressure off her artificial hip.


And she had false teeth. And a leg brace. And glasses.

She was a medical miracle, a cut-rate six-million-dollar woman, the world's worst action figure – toy comes with real metal joints!

If you paid six bucks for her, you'd get a dollar-fifty change.

Each day she lost a little more weight.

Her false teeth didn't fit her properly anymore, they were too big, she couldn't talk with them in. So she left them out.

She covered her mouth during photos as a result, even though she had a beautiful cheeky grin.


I held her hand when she was excited or scared or telling a joke.

She got smaller and curved in on herself and her knees moved a little into her chest each day – but her friends still came.

And one of her sons slept next to her in a big armchair each night. And she kept going. And going. And going.

When she found out she was dying, she was ready – nostalgic for our late-night Chase sessions, her little apartment in the home, and her mobility scooter.

She worried for her family. Wondered when her boys were going to get married.

But she was ready. And I think we were ready too.


No more tough questions.

*Alexander Sparrow is a writer, actor, and award-winning comedian.