17.6.10 | My Father Part 2

And so he came home.

This gentle, kind man, not very tall, shorter still with illness and exhaustion. Broken by bad luck or who knows what unkind trick of fate. He didn't deserve this end. But then who does? Long days of pain and to see his own mortality falling from him along with all his dignity. He immediately went into shutdown. Those eyes which had smiled conspiringly at my brother and i telling him silly jokes or fooling around for him, even when the rest of his face had not....Now put shutters up against the world. Keeping us all out...except for the woman he'd loved and remained true to all his life. He couldn't face us any more. Still generous, he didn't want us to see what Hell was like. He couldn't hope to hide it all from her, though.

He lay in bed, in pain and depressed and responded only to my mum, so tired, who snapped and chided him mercilessly- she the military officer and he the private in their last stand together. Fighting tooth and nail and morphine to keep the enemy-not at bay- they both knew their doom was approaching- No, the battle here was to make sure the enemy bloody well earned the privilege to take him. (I think he'd like that soldierly analogy if he was reading this). Before sleep yesterday, my mum takes his hand in hers and says to me gently with reddened eyes,
"I've told him he can go".
(And so at last, the enemy halts the assault and, silently gathers in solemn salute and carries the fallen away through the lines with great reverence and honour. The captain falls to the ground, exhausted, and weeps alone. Wounded in many places where she tried to shield her beloved troops from harm. Friend and foe; Their faces all etched with the same grief now the battle is over. Holding onto each other fleetingly and we the living are left to wonder what on earth we are fighting for.)

And there were moments i was so proud of him. My father was never a tall man, but his heart and friendship and kindness were mighty enough to floor kings and queens. Our old family doctor, long since retired, came to see him one day... and my father true to himself and his warmth got his blow in first "Hello Doctor Ali. How've you bin keepin'?" Poor Doctor Ali stood no chance. I wanted to give him a hug so badly afterwards.

He's so poorly now. The cancer in his stomach and other organs have taken their toll. On him and all of us others who sit there with him. I don't know how my mum will manage when all this is done. her entire reason for living is to see him through to the end. Almost her entire life, she has been dedicated to loving him. Fighting him. Laughing with him. Comforting him. The last days have been torment that no words can describe.

From the despair of my mother and i trying to hold his tired body up while we clean his soilings before he falls back into them, knowing that every second on his feet is torture to his fragile body, to the electric doorbell he rang so little at first, then so much at the end. My mother must have climbed mount Everest- twice- in response to that bell. Even now i hear it chiming ghostly in quiet moments and turn my head at echoes of the past days. Sometimes i remember his voice too, lost and afraid, calling "Sylvia!" (her name.)

"Get me up and then get me back down again" are the other words he utters most now and the ones that will stay with me for the rest of my life.. Yesterday was the worst day, i think.... he fell out of bed... and we unable to do anything, had to call the ambulance and wait helplessly watching his stress and mounting anxiety until they arrived.... the call operator saying they regarded it as a "non-emergency" and it could take them an hour to arrive...

I think this is his last day. If it is, he will die one day short of the 50th wedding anniversary that he and mum had so long looked forward to. His pain is horror to watch, his stoicism and bravery of these past few months only now becoming apparent. He even resisted taking his morphine for a few hours, the other night; Always unwilling to be a bother to people. And the nurses... the courage and dedication of our nurses is... everything you could want from in a nurse and more. District nurses, Pendle Hospice nurses, Macmillan nurses... they've all been so kind, and a shoulder to lean on.
One of the Hospice nurses has stayed with us this evening. Another will be here again tomorrow if he somehow, miraculously, makes it that far. I'm so glad she's here. It won't be long now. He flails weakly, looking at last for the way out and stares at a fixed point on the ceiling talking to persons unseen.
"Come on. Come on."
They are there too, i think. Those who have gone before. Come to gather him in like pathfinders in the dark... and i remember a story my mother used to tell me about his father and the night he died:

"Your Dad went over to Padiham in a taxi and while he was gone, all the lights in the living room started popping and flickering and going out. I was scared half to death..."
This evening, the light in my room suddenly flickers and glows and pops with a life of its own... i swear it sways from time to time. I don't find it frightening though, but i have never seen a lightbulb behave so oddly before. Somehow it's reassuring.

His body is on the brink, and so is he. I struggle to watch as he cries in pain. This good man dying. The price of his soul worth less than a cab fare. Or a blue ambulance light.

"Get me up. And then get me back down again".

Our ancestors hear him and they will.
I pray they guide him with all their love.

*edit* He died this morning. The time was 11:20am. Twelve hours and forty minutes away from their golden anniversary. We held his hands and kissed him goodbye and his breaths became longer and fewer, until he finally was able to leave. My mother has lost her man. Her voice, kind and gentle and unbearably sad:
"Goodbye, Love"


  9:01 pm :. Blogger dizzy hollered thusly:

You and your mum have my deepest sympathy and I'll pray for your father and for you and all others he loved and left behind.

  10:04 pm :. Blogger Grumpy Old Mum hollered thusly:

When I think of your dad I think of all the funny little things that he, and your mum, used to do and I can’t help but smile. Your mum telling him off for not bringing his glasses... the Mau Tse Tung hat that we took the mick out of by singing You Can Leave Your Hat On... the way he said 'aye' a lot, just like old fellas do... coming in at night when you were on the phone saying "will you keep the bloody noise down" when you were on the phone (Christ, that’s going back some time, isn’t it?)... watching the two of them learning how to use the computer and your mum slapping his hand for touching the mouse when it was her turn… Sitting having a slanging match with your mum (after a wine or two!) over who had the remote control whilst we talked on the phone and you shouting "will you two shut up!!!" because you couldn't hear a word, then they’d lay into you as a joint effort and you’d have to shut yourself in the kitchen :)

I’ve got so many good memories of a very kind man.

Your parents are the warmest couple I know, and although they were always having a little ‘dig’ at each other, you knew behind that front that they really loved each other and the banter was just their way of expressing it. My heart totally goes out to your mum. I think she felt quite helpless, and maybe a bit cheated at him being taken, and I don’t blame her for that. When I heard, I think I cried for your mum as much as I did your dad.

I hope that the memories of the illness and pain soon fade and are replaced by the many, many happy memories you all have of your dad.

You're dad was a star, and now he's with the stars somewhere up there, looking down

my love to all of you xxx

  4:20 am :. Blogger The Saturnyne hollered thusly:

Thank you Dizzy and GoM.
I didn't realize it was you at first, R. I hope my sadness doesn't prevent my finding my way to yours and C's wedding.
I appreciate your memories so much, GoM. They add to my own so very much.
much love to you both and all my friends and family who read this.

  3:41 pm :. Blogger Ginger Doll hollered thusly:

Sat, I am so sory to hear both your loss, and your mum's. In keeping with what GoM said about stars, 'Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.' (Eskimo proverb)

  3:25 am :. Blogger LiVEwiRe hollered thusly:

Oh S.x, I'm so sorry to learn of your loss. I'm hoping this finds you and your mum well, given the circumstances.

  4:51 pm :. Blogger supersoniclady hollered thusly:

I'm so sorry to hear this, I know how painful it is to watch a loved one go through all the troubles of cancer, and you not being able to do anything about it. I second what GOM said, I hope the memories you look back upon are of good times. It helps so much with the grieving process to remember them when they were well, even though it may be hard now, you have to try your darnedest. It's easier on the soul, and he would want you to be happy.

xo - L

  10:55 pm :. Blogger MAGGIE hollered thusly:


I read this now and what struck me was respect, honour, empathy but most of all, your love and admiration. I am sure you must have been the greatest son to your dad and if he would come down again, he would want you as his son once again. As I type this tears are running down my face as I feel your pain because I understand as I too, have lost my dad not to long ago. He was my hero and I miss him so much but we must now live a life that they can smile upon so that they might be at peace after this hard life they had lived, knowing that their loved ones are okay.

All the best for you and your Mom.
May God bless and keep you always.

All my love,

Margaretha Du Toit

  10:57 pm :. Blogger MAGGIE hollered thusly:


I read this now and what struck me was respect, honour, empathy but most of all, your love and admiration. I am sure you must have been the greatest son to your dad and if he would come down again, he would want you as his son once again. As I type this tears are running down my face as I feel your pain because I understand as I too, have lost my dad not to long ago. It was also shortly before their Golden anniversary, their 50th. He was my hero and I miss him so much but we must now live a life that they can smile upon so that they might be at peace after this hard life they had lived, knowing that their loved ones are okay.

All the best to you and your Mom.
May God bless and keep you always.

All my love,

Margaretha Du Toit

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12.6.10 | For Jill

I have neither sat with you in quiet conversation, a glass of wine to hand; nor eaten from your table the finest foods you and your partner might prepare.

I have not laughed with you at the foolishness of the world, nor gazed admiringly out of your window at your beautiful garden blossoming with small lives. Or made a snowman with you, nor delighted, eyes grinning, at a rainbow arcing across a thundery sky together.

I have not sat with you looking through picture scrapbooks at all your childrens growing pains and pleasures, neither listened with quiet understanding as you spoke to your dolls, carefully arranging them on their chair. Nor held your hand in the last days of your difficult life, vainly willing and praying that my touch might somehow give miracles and either heal you or just ease yours and my own fathers suffering (though pray i did, every night before sleep. Offering myself to God, for a miracle. Any miracle)

I have not ever told you how much i feel humbled by your tenacity and bravery and your willingness to reach out towards new goals in spite of everything that life has throw at you. Nor expressed the admiration in your fierce protection of those you love. And i knew how much you loved them. And even when you did not trust me or my motives i could not help but love you all the more for that.

I have never met you, or spoken to you or sent letters in their many forms to you in praise and honour and affection as i have so many times wished. Feeling foolish for even wanting to, now foolish for never trying to reach out just the once.

I have never met you, but you live on in pictures and the memories of friends and your children; the thoughts and words and actions of your youngest daughter who described you with such love and honest, unaffected simplicity to me so many times will always remind me of you. I will smile and some days i will shed tears too when we talk about you. You would be so proud of her courage and compassion and the joy she brings into peoples lives.

I have never met you, and my life is less richer for that. You died this morning and i found myself weeping for a stranger as if she were a dear friend.

I love you. It does not seem strange to me. May you be at peace.



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10.6.10 | My Father (part 1)

It began, i suppose, a couple of days before their usual May holiday to Cyprus. but in truth, it must have begun a long time, many many months before that. There were no signs. He had been sick two days before they went out, but was fine on the day of departure.

It continued with a scared phone call from my Mum two days before their return.

"Paul, your dads been taken to the hospital. He started vommiting blood..."

We thought it was the Warfarin tablets he was taking, causing an adverse reaction because he had a bug or stomach upset. Little did we realize what they were reacting to, or the very serious nature of what the medical teams in the Cyprus hospital were going to discover.

And then they came home. My parents. Exhausted far beyond their means to endure. My fathers skin already looking yellow. We put him to bed immediately. My mother, somehow dregging every last resource of energy she could muster to get things done before she too pulled herself into bed beside the man she had loved for over 50 years. I still marvel at how much she has given to get here.

Somewhere, between stepping through the front door and slumber, she was able to hand me the hospital report below:

It's the last paragraph that i return to over and over again. The one that burns irrevocably in my mind and threatens to tear grief howling from my throat- a physical/mental rupturing of every part of my body. You can't know it until you've been there.

My father. My father has come home to die.


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