So, it all comes back now…awakening at 6.30am in January darkness with a red wine hangover, your mother entering your room. ‘He seems to be in a lot of pain. He’s shouting a lot’. I, of course, irritably dismiss these concerns. I roll over and address the pillow directly. ‘Just give him another dose of fentanyl’. That’ll shut him up. Because, quite honestly, I’ve lived with this long enough this morning already. The last 9 years of M.R.I’s, bone scans, surgical options, evaporating platelet’s, staying positive, talking it through, giving false hope, lying. I’ve forgotten entirely who the person in the converted dining room/hospice really was. He’s like a weakened blood vessel in my head waiting to burst and I can’t wait for the relief, I cannot wait for the silence it will bring me. I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life alone. I’m not wishing for anything after this. If he will not go then I will.
I walk downstairs, I just follow the sounds. Slowly. I no longer hurry. I hear an animal wailing. I enter the room. The air-bed wheezes, exhales and falls. I dismiss the incompetent night carer with a glare and a noise that sounds like ‘thanks’ but is nothing of the kind. She leaves. Meanwhile he’s grabbing at his leg and tearing at his pjs. I try to talk, I say vaguely soothing things but he looks at me panicked and says something in a language that didn’t exist 10 minutes ago. I don’t know what it means but I do know that this is finally it. ‘We should call the doctor’. I try to make it calm, matter of fact but I worry that it just sounds resigned, as if I know it won’t make a difference. I still want to lie to them, my father, my mother and myself sitting in our dining room on the darkest of all January mornings at the end of all things.
The rest flashes through like still frames. I call work; I make sure they can hear the screams so I don’t have to do my shift. The doctor arrives and administers what looks like way too much morphine. I’m grateful but can’t really say anything. He imparts some sympathetic platitudes that confirm what I’m thinking and then leaves. Through the day people arrive, Sister, Brother-in-law, nurses, Aunts, Uncles, a girl that makes me laugh no matter what.
He’s in a coma now attached to a syringe driver and we talk to him in shifts throughout the day. His breathing slows over a period of 7 hours, becoming shallower and increasingly ragged. The death rattle is a real thing after all and this small note to myself makes me smile. Someone is talking about suction when the breathing really slows, almost stops, then resumes at a fraction of what it was. He calls out from wherever he is and I think I say out loud ‘he’s going now’.
4.10pm, the breathing stops completely and I kiss my father goodbye for the last time. I tell him that I love him and although I probably imagine it, he seems to try to respond. His eye closes, and as all life flees, it re-opens and the difference between us and them becomes completely obvious. There is a momentary silence interrupted only by the bed, which hasn’t caught on yet and is still breathing and hissing uselessly to itself in the middle of the room.
I can only remember fragments of the hysterical outpouring of grief that followed, another doctor, or maybe the same one, arrives and we sign something and are charged £80 ‘ash cash’ for the privilege. A funeral car arrives and two suited men carry the body out in a bag. I don’t remember who called them, or when, but I do remember standing in the drizzling rain with my family on the driveway as the hearse crawls away. I have no memory of the next two hours but at some point someone cooks me dinner and I find, to my surprise, that I’m alive and actually hungry. I’m embarrassed about this and strangely guilty for having an appetite. Should I not fast now, make a show of grief and fade away out of obligation? I allude to this with a stupid little laugh but my uncle says it’s ok so I just go with it.
If it was a film then the credits would roll here, but they don’t. We all have the rest of our lives to get through now. Life isn’t a story and if it makes?sense as a narrative then you’re probably editing quite a lot of it. Events reach a crescendo then fade into silence. In the silence you can maybe come to terms with all that you’ve lost.