Christmas was approaching rapidly during that time, and I went a little crazy trying to juggle everything. My family don’t usually celebrate Christmas to its entity, mostly just with a couple of cards and presents passed around on Christmas Day. However, my grandmother and great-aunt was visiting that Christmas, and so the whole extended family got together to whip up a big celebration. I still called Wini nightly, but our conversations became shorter and shorter. I was in a frenzy trying to find gifts and make cards for everyone, and I became a little careless.
She still told me of the little things in her daily life, sometimes venting anger on the somewhat mean nurses at the youth centre. I asked if her family came frequently, and she told me that her mother brought her food every day until she told her Mum not to bother driving half an hour each day to see her. Wini was ever so selfless, even in times of difficulties, and I felt more ashamed of myself than ever. If I was in her place, I would’ve revelled in the fact that my mother came to see me daily and not even bother thinking about the inconvenience of the trips.
Wini had been going to counselling sessions every other day since the incident, but from what she told me they weren’t very pleasant meetings, at least at the start of her stay at hospital. She said that there were way more people than she expected, doctors and psychiatrists and nurses all sitting in a room. They were her doctors and nurses, true, but they were also almost-strangers. And I was thinking to myself: If she couldn’t share her troubles with those who knew her, why would she tell strangers about it all? But then again, perhaps it is easier to unload one’s burden onto a stranger, as they would be less likely to judge.
In one of the phone calls around mid December, we both started talking about Christmas. I told her of the elaborate Christmas party that we’d have to celebrate my grandmother and great-aunt’s visit to Australia, and she went along with it all, nodding and commenting at all the right places. After a whole ten minutes of me talking, I realised a little too late that I was being a complete idiot. Wini said she didn’t know when she’ll be discharged from hospital, and here I was blabbing on about the exciting Christmas I would have to a girl who would be spending Christmas away from home. I was being an incredibly insensitive twat, and I hated myself so for it.
“Is your family visiting on Christmas eve?” I asked her, trying to fix another of my stupid mistakes, “I’d love to come and see you then if you’re not busy.”
She laughed a little and told me that I didn’t have to come see her, and I insisted that I wanted to (which I did). Our other friends were planning to come then as well, and so I could just tag along with them. The more, the merrier, right? And Christmas was supposed to be merry.
“No, seriously, don’t feel like you have to,” she said, “And actually, don’t come from the 24th to the 26th. I’m allowed home for those days to celebrate Christmas with my family, so I wouldn’t be able to see you anyway. But thanks for the thought.”
I was so glad she was allowed home for Christmas, because in my opinion Christmas won’t be Christmas unless celebrated with one’s loved ones. Although I would’ve liked to see her then, perhaps swap little cards, eat puddings and sing a couple of carols together. I made myself a mental note to tell my other friends that she won’t be at the hospital during Christmas, but with the short-term memory that I had, I forgot. So poor Sophie and Cassie travelled all that way on Christmas Eve, armed with candy canes and mini puddings, only to be told that Wini had gone home for a couple of days. Gosh, I really am a terrible friend.
In my last phone call to Wini before Christmas, she sounded much happier than all the other times. I was happy too, so happy that she was laughing from the other end of the line. And by laughing, I meant laughter bubbling from the core of her to her lips. It pained me a little to realise that I haven’t heard that kind of laughter from her in a really long time. Her being happy and home again, even only for a couple of days, was one of the nicest presents I received for Christmas.