Another Life. Ended. Another Life. Beginning.By Emma Pearson
February 28, 2024
Main photo my own – taken yesterday 2 December 2023 while out and about.
3 December 2023
I am just back home from working a Sunday night shift at the hospice. I am full of wonderings and ponderings.
One of the residents, a man called H, died early this morning. He is about my age.
He died of my brother Edward’s disease – Glioblastoma. A total bugger of a brain cancer.
And he died in what will always be “Mike’s room”.
There are only four rooms at the hospice, all named after flowers, but I struggle to remember their names. Even after all these years, I think of the two downstairs rooms either as “Ed’s room” or “Mike’s room”. And when I go upstairs, I just take great care to ensure I go into the correct room. I can’t – or won’t – learn the rooms’ names.
The man’s husband, R, is now widowed for the second time. Both men already widowers when they met over two decades ago. Widowed too young the first time. And now – one of the two is widowed once more, before he’s even 60. And the younger man – well – he’s lost it all, and more. Hasn’t he? He’s dead.
I struggle sometimes with the non-sense-ness of it all.
Hard as Grief is… hard as losing a spouse, a partner is…without going into the losing a child bit of the equation…it can’t be as bad as illness and dying.
Death and dying. Grief and grieving. One terminal. One as permanent as anything can be permanent.
Which would you rather?
On a good day I think I’d prefer Grief and Grieving. It can feel unbearable, and feels terminal, but really it’s interminable. Unending. Everlasting. Until you die yourself, that is.
On a bad day, there feels to be a simplicity in Death and Dying. Over with. Done and dusted.
Such a messy business. Desperately sad. Whichever bit of the equation you’re on.
Expected, then wholly unexpected when it actually happens.
I know I am going to die, but I don’t want to – at least not for a while, and most definitely not while I am healthy. It feels unimaginable. Impossibly hard. Unfathomable. And yet, people do it all the time.
One of the points we try to make in the volunteer training is, “Hard as grief and grieving is for the survivors, don’t underestimate the grief and loss of the dying. The survivor loses the person who died. But the person dying loses all the people they have ever known and loved”.
It’s a tough lesson, and I never felt sure that I was the best person to convey it.
Everyone loses. Everybody hurts.
Dying is everywhere. And Grief is everywhere.
There are no easy parts to play in this game of life and death.
I always go to say “goodbye” to the person who has died. Whether I spent much time with them or not. The illness a resident had makes a difference to the state of their body. Their age too. And much else.
I take my time in the room, breathing slowly and deeply as though I could breathe for the two of us.
I wonder at the stillness of the person who has died.
Their calm. Their poise. Their presence. Their absence.
Where on earth has he gone? Where the hell is he?
It’s only a few hours back that he was breathing…And now?
Gone. Not here, even if his body is.
I don’t get it. Or I don’t want to get it.
I think I just don’t want there to be another widower out in the world tonight.
But there is.
Go gently, sweet H.
Go gently, sweet R.
May you find your way to one another again in time.
Image by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash