Monday, February 15, 2010
It is with great sadness.
On Wednesday the 3rd of February 2010 at roughly 2.45pm my Dad died.
I was there, sat next to the bed and talking aimlessly about stories in the paper. Someone had told me that the last thing to go is the hearing so you have to keep talking, communicating, reaching out and begging them not to go; and then telling them that it’s OK, we can manage now, Mum’s waiting and I want you to be free.
Many would say it was a good death, whatever that means. At home, with his family. But from where I stood there seemed to be so little dignity for this once proud Yorkshireman. Everyone is very kind; everyone is very caring; just as long as you’re staying at home the powers that be are all very happy. It keeps you off the balance sheet. They promise you all the support you need and my brother asks them “is that the case because my little brother is disabled and can’t pick our father up” and they go “oh no problem just pick up the phone and we’ll be there” and you do two hours later to be told “oh we’re all going home now can you call so and so or so and so” but they’re not there either and you weep. You stand and weep and the tears roll down your face and you beg your father to let go and rescue himself from this pain. Then he dies.
And you forgive them.
The house is too quiet so I put on Handel’s Messiah. Not just any old Messiah but Mozart’s arrangement of the Messiah. I’d bought it for him directly from the Huddersfield Choral Society and he had loved it. It was part of our family’s genetic make up. Every Christmas he’d come downstairs in his dressing gown and stuck his vinyl copy on the big stereogram, turned the volume up, grinned and we all new Christmas had started. Now I played it as he lay dying and as the glorious rich tones of Comfort Ye swelled through his flat I could see a peace settle and move across him. I sat there as CD1, the first movement flowed around us and I breathed in the air and held his hand and felt his recognition, his connection to those earlier days surrounded by a younger, less complicated family and with his wife still upstairs in bed; and I knew he was there.
As His Yoke Is Easy faded so did my father. I wanted to believe that he had calmed and lay sleeping. I could see the covers still rising and falling. Couldn’t I?