** Author note, this is not satirical and it is deeply personal. It also jumps between tenses appallingly. But it is written without too much over-thinking . Feel free to pass with a TL;DR” **
A few days ago, partly on a whim, partly in response to a dream I couldn’t quite shake, I wrote to the Coroner (is there really just one?) and asked for the report and findings from the worst day of my life.
I was expecting this process to take a long time, but the universe has an unusual sense of timing; as I was standing outside at the wake of a dear friend yesterday, the reports were sent through to my email.
Today, I printed it out, because paper trumps email.
This morning, new waves of sadness and a sense of morbid understanding washed over my hungover body.
Like many, I’ve been through some tough times in my life. I am grateful for nearly all of them as they have helped build resilience, even if it’s a little threadbare at times.
But that particular day in June, nearly 9 years ago did something to the inside my heart that no amount of time or reflection will ever be able to mitigate.
I don’t think you can classify this as PTSD. Although as I sat here this morning reading this report that summarizes the end of a man who should not ever be contained to 10 pages of A4, I felt the crushing in my chest. Heaves of tears, and rushing in my ears.
I have never written down the events of that day without trying to poetically sanitize it; grasping to words like ‘transfered’ instead of ‘died’ (and now I can quite clearly see it was the death of so much more to me than just his body lying there).
This one is for me. Finally.
June 24 2009. I am sitting on the front porch of my small house with it’s bright red door. I am fasting and praying and I have taken the day off work, because today is the day He is getting told He either does, or does not have cancer. I had heard or read somewhere that fasting and praying helps make your pleas more powerful, but I don’t know if I really buy it.
I have already visited Him in hospital. My memory tells me it was today, but it may have been the day before. I prayed for Him; a total of about 7 words, none of which were, in my opinion, the slightest bit persuasive.
I told Him as much, but He just said “the words don’t matter”. His last words to me.
I get hungry, and I eat a ham sandwich, thus breaking my fast.
Midday – The phone rings, and He has cancer. Treatable, prognosis positive, I hear in my mothers voice.
I spend a few minutes wondering if it was the ham sandwich, because that’s where your thoughts will take you when someone tells you He has cancer.
But it isn’t a surprise. He’s been sick for the last 5 months. I have watched this person who I know to be a mountain, trapped inside a body, that time and time again, has utterly betrayed Him.
So that’s it. He’s going to face cancer. Lymphoma. (I have now learned this was called High Grade B Cell).
His brother- a favourite uncle of mine, is at the hospital with Mum and Dad.
We have this shitty old phone beside the bed in my bedroom. It rings and I think I answer. It is my uncle who in a calm manner, but clearly attempting to swathe his distress, tells me that “Dad stopped breathing for a while there”. That it “was under control, but that I should probably try to get to the hospital as fast as possible.”
So we all piled into the car, me furiously texting friends asking for them to pray (what else do you do when you only know one way to cope) and intermittently swearing at the poor children who have no idea why I’m freaking out in the passenger’s seat.
“just drop me off, I’ll call you later’
Like a rat in a maze, not towards the cheese, but away from the lab technician about to pick me up and put me back in a cage.
The lift doors open and I find my mother, more calm and reassuring than I can understand. And me, sweating, tears seared down my cheeks.
So maybe it’s going to be ok? We are still under the shroud of positive prognosis from 3 hours ago.
I go into the room where He was moments ago. We are collecting His things to go through to the ICU.
I look at the floor. It is covered in wrappers, medicine labels; the bed is missing, you can feel an electricity of emergency still lingering. And I know.
We are seated in the family room of the ICU, and in my head I am saying good bye. Mum is not.
An old man who I assume is a specialist emerges and all I can remember sounds like muffled garble. It’s not looking good, but they are working hard.
So it starts to hit her. Reality like a sharp shove to the brain, heart, and spirit in one swift motion.
Two men in scrubs come in. Sweating, tired. For 80 minutes they have tried to save his heart.
I wish I knew their names, because the tears that start flowing every time I think of these men (or type out this story for the first time) warrant their names being known.
And now I need a moment.
I’ll forever need more time.
My hands that have typed this so quickly after almost 9 years, just stop.
They barely hover over the key board.
And I cannot write of the pain of my mother’s reaction because that is the most personal and intimate pain I have ever seen in my life, and it is not mine to tell. It is not yours to read.
They let us behind the curtain that divides the living from my Father.
He is lying there, tubes now removed. The mountain is gone. He is here in body, but He can’t see me.
And climb up beside him, and lie down with his warm hand in mine,
And we weep. Our hearts are imploding.
I put my head on His chest, and for a moment I think I have heard His heart beating. I look up at Him, wondering. But it is just the blood in my ears, rushing. pulsing.
I stroke His hair. I am acutely aware I would never have done this when He was alive. But it is instinctual.
I hold His hand until the warmth begins to dissipate and I feel His Spirit is leaving.
I start to make phone calls. I become numb. There are no good ways to say the words, He’s dead. But I do it. Several times. I receive disbelief, moans, an attempt at comforting words. There is no good way to do this.
At some point there are police asking questions, standard procedure when a person who was given a cancer diagnosis then dies 3 hours later.
And we have to say good bye.
I have no memory of this.
I have no idea how I got home.
there is a certain mode a person maintains when leached of spirit. The capacity for expressing any further emotion is not high. So auto pilot and routine words start leaving your mouth and you hear them, as if from a distance, as you look in and know your heart is broken.
And I sit in my bathroom with the door locked, and let it go. I let the waves crash mercilessly over me, no longer concerned about the chance that I may never come up for air. Because I know that I will.
Until the next wave.
These papers that are beside my legs as I type these words, tell me exactly what was inside his physical body. It explains the betrayal of his organs, and it has the facts of his lasts weeks, days and hours.
He never stood a chance.
What it doesn’t say is;
2 generations of horse rides on His back, squealing children and grandchildren, delighted by this human.
It mentions his limbs, but not how He let me dance on His feet.
They know the weight of His brain, but they don’t know the immense intellect with which it held.
They have reported the measurement of His heart, but do not know of the hundreds of people for whom it ached. His capacity to love was His legacy. He loved past the personality, smell, income, status, or sexuality of a person.
It tells me His eyes were hazel, but not that He saw the earth as sacred, and in dire need of protecting.
There is a list of bodily failures, but no list of His unfailing Faith…..
And these sheets of A4 paper, which have helped me understand the medical, will never replace the magical.
There is pain at the centre; a frustration that I cannot sit and discuss the Big Issues with Him.
But I sense He is not so far from me.
With my eyes closed I can still get to an awareness that His magic was not momentary.