97: The end of an era

After a restless night my mobile phone rang at 7.40am, it was my mum, she was crying and said that dad had just gone.  During the night the carer and mum had called the district nurses out twice to administer drugs to help settle dad and dry up the secretions in his chest and throat, they been out at 3am and 5am.   She said that she’d been talking to him and was holding his hand when he just stopped breathing.  It was just after 7 o’clock in the morning.

I cried.  I hugged my husband and daughter.  Relief that the final few days were over and a deep visceral grief as my dear dad was dead.

I arrived as soon as I could with my sister in law, my brother had already gone up to the flat.  My dad’s body was there and it was warm but my dad wasn’t, he hadn’t been there since Saturday afternoon.  The doctor was there and completing paperwork, he said to mum that she must come to the surgery if she was unable to sleep or needed help.

It is strange how grief affects us in different ways. I just wanted to be quiet and when Nick arrived, I sat on a chair next to my mum and held hers and Nick’s hand.  My brother went into action mode – he wanted to phone people to be doing, sorting, fixing….  I may have said “just shut up and be quiet, sit down”.  Dad was lying there in the sitting room, the struggle was over and he looked the most at peace that he’d been in days.

Two St Luke’s hospice health care assistants arrived, they washed and shaved dad and then dressed him.  They were so gentle and respectful.  The young man, Archie, had come out on Saturday afternoon, like dad he too was a Mason and and he talked to dad as if he was still here as he gently shaved his face.  They then dressed him – Royal Marine rugby shirt, Royal Marine green sweater with the Falkland Islands embroidered on the chest, blue penguin pj bottoms – another nod to the Falklands and Royal Marine socks. The syringe driver had to be removed later by the District nurse when she came to collect all the controlled drugs.

A friend of mine had suggested that we all look at photos – we dug out the big box of photos and started going through them.  Tears and laughter, happy memories of holidays and family occasions.

The funeral directors had been contacted and mid morning they arrived.  Two immaculately dressed men in pin striped trousers, black blazers and brilliant white shirts knocked on the door, came in to see dad and then said we could have time to say our final goodbyes.  We did, we all gave dad a kiss and hug.  The funeral directors brought in a gurney and then wrapped dad carefully in a white fabric whilst we watched.  They were very respectful.  He was covered in the black cover and then my brother played “We will go, we will go, to the land of Macleod” as dad was wheeled out.  We all wept as that was it.  Dad was loaded into the back of the black van and they drove off.  That was it he was gone.

We went back into the flat – the medical bed was empty.  It was the end of an era and we were all numb.  We did the typically British thing and had a cup of tea.


Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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