Thursday, November 29, 2018
I RECEIVED the call at 10:00, I think it was. Night-time.
You were already gone a little time since then.
I waited in the hallway for my wife to gather a few things,
I was impatient to go. I already felt like something was missing. And
I felt this enormous rush or will to see you again.
The children were dumb or naïve
Upstairs. They had become Pa-less
And didn’t know it yet.
We decided not to tell them but left them a note.
If you awake, ring this number.
But they did not wake.
We climbed into the car and traversed the two or three suburbs to where you lay
And where you lived for the last couple of years of your life.
I am loath to call them sad years. I
Like to think that even in these times of
Immobilization and at times discomfort,
Of watery meals and forced socialisation,
Of your sideways view of the television and the hoped for
Social visits that came sporadically,
I like to think there was something in it for you even then.
We did not talk much in the car.
I felt my grief beginning to rise.
‘So it’s come to this then’,
I thought to myself. No, no reason for words, reminiscences
I took an enormous breath before I slowly drifted in,
Like a ghost,
To the death room.
Mother was there as well as your eldest son, my brother, and my sister, your only daughter
It all felt so new. All new, all of
Us still slightly unaware of our emotions and our thoughts in this new experience
Suddenly transported in time.
The stillness in the room,
The grasping of trying to come to terms.
My first sight of my only dead body.
You looked strangely tranquil but enormously dead on your bed.
Flat on your back, your hands clasped together sitting on
Your forever silent chest.
I wondered if you had been found like this,
Or were you rearranged, or toyed with somehow,
By the worker who found you there,
Suddenly not breathing.
I made some glib comment about souls circulating around rooms once they were dead.
We all looked at each other, all out of our depth,
Or me, at any rate.
I thought of mother and the long, sad burden, and my heart went out to her,
And my breathing changed,
Short sad gasps.
A couple of hours expired somehow with us all being
Unconscious of time. It was about midnight.
We all had to go- that is, the living, not the dead.
Two of us left, so just mother and I, sitting helplessly,
Strongly aware of this unexpected change,
The finality of it. I felt like I should go, but blurted out, aloud
‘How do I suddenly leave the room?’
I went over to you, father,
And placed my hands under the blanket.
An overwhelming urge to touch you, like I did,
The day before, touching the hands and arms of the living.
Except this final time,
The dead. I tried to unclasp your hands,
Fascinated by their new rigidness. The fingers already stiff,
The warmth and breath of life expired two hours ago.
I went out into the hallway with the others,
Right outside the door, and leant against the wall.
We all gave mother some time alone. Again,
The enormity of it all. How does one say goodbye
To the one you have been married to for over sixty years.
What do you remember? What is replayed at this time
Round and round your mind?
As we left I thought again of yesterday. The mouth of yours,
Opening and closing, trying to form words,
Without sound coming out. An me just smiling back like a fool,
Desperate for anything that might make you feel better.
And then telling the doctor just a half hour later
That we want morphine to kick in.
We want to help accelerate our father’s death.
And the awful deep gasps in finding yourself using these words.
I remember, powerfully, the sight of a new born, the watery
Tumbling out onto the bed. And now this,
This newest sight which will also never leave me.