“I’m so sorry John, but I’m afraid that there is nothing that I can do…….Your Dad has died”
“I thought so, they asked me if he was breathing, and I said I didn’t think so, so they asked me to get him onto the floor but when I tried to move him, he was so cold and stiff”
I try to look into Johns eyes to judge how this one is going to go. Everyone handles the death of a loved one differently…
“Oh, well…..Do you want a cuppa?”
“No thanks John, not right now”
Looking towards the bed, I see Bill. He was a 75 year old man with no real medical problems. This most certainly wasn’t an expected death. John and Bill had lived to together for the last 3 years following the death of Judy, Bills wife and Johns Mam. Bill is lying naked, sprawled diagonally across the bed, lying on his back when he should obviously still be on his side. His skin is a deep maroon colour down the right hand side, telling all who know, the exact position in which he died, which is this case appears to be very peacefully during the night whilst sleeping.
There is nothing I can do here for Bill, instead my focus of concern turns to John, who right now, looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, but is very definitely trying to display that out going British characteristic of a ‘stiff upper lip’
“Come on John, let’s go back downstairs for a while. I need to fill some paper work in and get some information from you if that’s ok?”
“Yeah, of course. No problems!”
John appears almost bubbly in his demeanour, although he isn’t fooling me.
“Do you have any family close by who you can call so that they can come and be with you and help with all of the practical things that need to be done?”
“No, it was always just me and Dad after mam died. I have some distant cousins but they are down the other end of the country and we don’t really talk anyway”
He gives a big smile, shrugs his shoulders and heads off into the kitchen.
“John, I just have a couple of things to do in your Dads room for a few minutes, ok? I’ll be back down in a couple of minutes”
I go back up stairs and into the bedroom where Bill lies dead on the bed.
This is no way for a son to remember his Dad. There are no suspicious circumstances apparent so I gently swivel Bill through 90 degrees so that he is lying normally in the bed again. His head and arm fit exactly into the depression on the pillow and he resumes his final resting position, now looking peacefully asleep. I pull the quilt back up around him and snuggle it in just under his chin. One eye remains open but is easily closed with a little bit of pressure for a few seconds.
I turn on the bedside light and pull up a chair from the corner and place it next to his side of the bed.
One last look around the room and I notice the photographs of Bill and his late wife at various stages of their life together, then glance back to take one last look at Bill in bed. I hope they are back together again. It’s still not my belief that there is a heaven and hell, but it is nice to think that they are in each other’s arms once more.
As I return downstairs, John is sitting in his seat with a cup of coffee.
“Well then, what happens now?”
I explain about the police having to come due to it being an unexpected death and reassure him that it is nothing for him to worry about, purely procedural; then ask if he has any preference of a funeral director to come and take his Dad to the chapel of rest.
As he is explaining about the service that they had for his Mam, his bottom lip starts to quiver and a hint at the internal anguish starts to filter through.
“John, are you okay?”
“Yeah, of course. You`ve got to be, haven’t you”
“No, not really, not right now…….You don’t have to be the strong one right now”
“I just cant take it in, he is still here, still upstairs. It feels as though he should be coming downstairs soon”
His eyes start to fill, but he still keeps his composure.
“Why don’t you go and sit with your Dad for a little while. I’m ok down here”
He looks up to the ceiling as if looking at his Dad through the roof, picturing him across the bed, undignified and exposed.
“I’ve put your Dad back into bed properly, John. He looks at peace, just like he is sleeping. There is a chair by the side of his bed……..Go and be with him”
John takes a deep breath and seems to allow some of his pain to show through for a moment. His voice breaks as he says
As he walks upstairs, I listen. Half way up the stairs, the sobs starts. A pause outside the door of his Dads bedroom followed by a deep breath then the door opening. Then it happens.
“Oh Dad!………Dad, what am I going to do without you now eh?”
John lets go. I stop listening and busy myself with my paper work. All I needed to hear is that he was okay; I don’t need to intrude any more than is absolutely necessary. There are no screams of anguish, no shouting or dramatics, just a quiet and constant sobbing as a son says goodbye to his last remaining parent and realises that he is now alone in his world.