Twenty years ago, this evening, I walked – well half ran – into a room along from the front desk in a hospital. Escorted by staff whose response I will never forget, as soon as I tentatively said his name I was rushed down a corridor and through a door.
Seconds later my father died.
I didn’t even realise immediately. He was rather cold and very still, lying on a bed. Machines bleeped. I remember a slight movement, just as I arrived. Apparently that was when he died.
A few minutes later I gently asked my mother, sat next to me by the bed, what was happening. She explained what I’d see just after I came in.
I think I nodded, accepting, knowing but not knowing until that moment. No doubt I cried.
I have very often thought about those few seconds I was present in his last moments: whether somehow deep inside he knew; about the narrow difference between life and death; about connection and love and pain and knowledge; about what we know and what we don’t know. Those few seconds are a gift for which I will always be grateful, though I never have, never will, and apparently do not need to understand.
There were many of us in the hospital. I have an amazing, truly amazing family. That evening we were gathered. Yes it was a hospital. Yes it was a peculiar time, an evening like no other. But it was an evening (and then many many days extending into weeks and months) for love as well as tears, for family coming together as well as family in loss.
Although the calendar anniversary is today, it was also Remembrance Sunday. I’ve already written this week of the import Remembrance Sunday had for us as children. As adults it has inevitably taken on extra resonance. This year in particular has been hard.
I don’t know whether it is the concept of the 20-year anniversary, or the extra emphasis on Remembrance in all our lives, or the many family events and times which have drawn us even more tightly together in recent months. Always close, always caring, always confident in our love for each other, this week somehow I have sensed that all of my family have been particularly conscious and impacted, collectively and individually. This evening even more so. Sometimes being grown ups, scattered into our own lives, feels hard. I love my family. I know they are always there. I still miss them.
I have typed some of this in tears. I wasn’t sure whether it was something to share, nor really how to do so. But if I am to write at all today this is what I wish to say. It is not the most coherent post I have ever written, not the best structured or the most articulate. But it is a story that means much to me.
It has been a long, emotional, hard week. Thank you for sparing a few minutes to share some of this evening with me.