Tuesday May 5th was queasily unpleasant. The carer had left the day before. Her time was well over due and there was nothing more for her to do. He wasn’t eating. Drugs were being administered by a syringe driver. Mum was hoovering. Ivy barked at the Hoover. I was getting angry with my computer, unable to complete the assignment that I was working on. Instead I’d gone outside to try to pump up the tyres on his bike. Puncture.
As I walked into the kitchen, Mum simply said ‘I think he’s gone.’ And so he had. Where his chest had been rising and falling intermittently, now there was no movement. His face was turned towards the window, his skin pale and soft like candle wax. The pallor of the dead.
I couldn’t get it. Dad. Dead. Dad still there in front of me, but not.
We were grateful in the end that there was no one else here. Grace the carer had left the day before. The sibs arrived and we had a day of waiting: for the doctor to register his death, and the undertakers who came after tea. The sun continued to shine and Dad stayed where he was. ‘Why shouldn’t he?’ I thought.
None of us wanted to see him leave and the undertaker told us to wait elsewhere while they got him ready. We waited outside at the other end of the house. Eventually the man from the undertakers came round to see us and a couple of minutes later we heard him leave for the last time.
My brother had already gone and my sister left soon after. When I walked back in to the room there was a perfect hollow in the middle of the pillow. The last impression of him. I stared at it blankly and then smoothed it out.
Today it is baking hot at his house. The deckchairs are out. Butterflies flit about the garden. The bees buzz noisily around the cat mint that he and mum allowed to grow freely out of the cracks in the patio. It’s as if nothing has changed. Jack the window cleaner arrived and wandered around the house chatting to his girlfriend on his phone as he squirted and squeaked the brush up and down the glass.
Mum is making the smoked salmon sandwiches to go with the champagne this afternoon. She said it feels like he’s just out at the office. ‘We need to be ready for 2.30.’ She had thought to say to him.
I keep on seeing him. In the bar under the stairs every evening, noisily fixing a drink and shouting to my Mum: ‘You OK RosiePosy?!’
At the sink in the backhouse where he was always messing around with something or in the greenhouse pottering about sowing, cutting, planting. None of us really knew what he did out there. Not specifically. It was his private space. He left no intstructions.
In fact he made no plans for anything after. He left it all to Mum. I guess it’s how he lived his life – at full tilt – and then when it’s done, it’s done.
‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Every day is like a dream. I’m here but not. I feel like I’m living in a memory of a Summer from my childhood.
Perhaps it might seem more real today. We lay him to rest at 2.30. It’ll be here in the church next to his beloved house and garden. It feels right. I know it’s strange but I quite like the fact that it’ll only be 6 of us – no kids – outside and the birds and the bees and the butterflies. The bell will be rung by the lay reader as he arrives. There will be readings, prayers and no singing. We will start with Psalm 121: ‘I will lift up mine eyes into the hills: from whence cometh my help.’
We will have to stand 2 metres apart due to Covid restrictions. Mum has sent the order of service to people who would normally be able to come but will follow from home and then they will raise a glass to him afterwards. And so will we.