i don’t like Sundays.
but still they come…
reminding me of those times when i shook hands with Death.
first, my father.
one fine sunny Sunday morning in May…
i can still hear my screams:
“Kathryn, darling… Daddy’s died” my mum said,
cradling me in her arms.
was this real? i was 13.
a child. why me? why my Dad?
why, Death, why?
can you tell me that?
why did you take him from me so soon…?
there was still so much i had to share with him:
he should have taught me how to drive;
he should have been driving me to and from the airport;
he should have been there to tease and taunt my boyfriends;
he should have been there to hold Mum in her last days on Earth.
he should have been there, then.
and he should be here…
Oh what i wouldn’t give
for one more day with him… because
i didn’t get the chance to say “Goodbye.”
i am sorry, Dad. i am so sorry…
and then, another Sunday morning… my little friend, my dog…
i am sorry, Bonnie. i didn’t know you were as sick as you were.
neither did the Vet.
Saturday, you grew sick. convulsing. struggling, gasping for breath.
“keep her comfortable, make sure she has fresh water” he said.
i slept by your side,
on the kitchen floor,
stroking you, whispering comforting words to you.
you died in my arms, through the night.
i woke up and you were gone.
your lifeless body, cold and stiff.
blood from your nose and ears
on my hands and sweater.
i am sorry i failed you, old girl.
if only i had known you were as sick as you were,
i would have, mercifully, done the right thing by you.
but the Vet sounded hopeful…
he was so apologetic when we took her little body to him,
i am sorry, little one. i am so sorry…
Sunday 16th July 2017. 5am.
i receive a phonecall… “Kathryn, it’s West Park Care Home… it’s time, darling“
in a haze of ‘this cannot be happening’
i call my brothers.
i am first to arrive, a lonely vigil, at her bedside.
my Mum had Alzheimer’s and dementia.
i had ‘lost’ her weeks before her physical death.
but we cling on,
with dear life, to prolong things. to anything…
i didn’t want her to go.
but i wanted her to go… does that make sense?
i couldn’t bear to see her struggle,
and writhe, her face contort in pain and confusion.
did she know i was there?
was she conscious? did she know she was dying?
could she hear me?
could she smell me?
could she sense my presence?
i hope so…
because that is all i have to cling onto now.
a hope that she felt my love
in her last few hours.
all i could do was sit by her,
stroke her hair,
sing to her, softly….
willing her to go to sleep…
willing her to let go…
was i ready for this? she was ready…
i was not.
Death entered her room at 8pm.
i felt his chill in the air, and
in her gasping and clawing,
in her sweating and writhing,
i willed him to take her.
to take her back.
back to those she had missed
all i could do was lie down beside her,
cradle her, as she did me, when Dad died.
whispered goodbyes – could she could hear me?
my words, my heart breaking…
i hope she knew how much she was loved.
and how much she would be missed.
but i was about to shake hands with Death,
he was so close now…
the minute we met,
i felt her heart stop beneath my hand.
a wave of golden light filled the room,
filled my body, like a surge of power.
did she pass through me?
i still hear the sound of my heart breaking,
when my Mother’s heart stopped beating.
every Sunday, at around 8.03pm…
i am sorry, Mum. i am sorry that you had to suffer so much.
i wish i could have done more.
but please…. know that you were loved. and that you are missed,
as i now feel properly orphaned.
the next time i was to shake hands with Death,
i refused to give in.
he was my love, my best friend. but where did he go?
another Sunday. he had been gone for hours. no explanation.
my stomach in ropes, i hailed a taxi to find an open door.
i find him,
in a darkened room,
surrounded by feelings of hopelessness and despair.
he didn’t want to live.
i screamed. again. why?? why???
a letter. empty bottles and empty pill packets.
the longest 22 minutes of my life, waiting…
waiting for that ambulance to arrive…
listening for his breath. watching his pupils dilate.
trying to keep him with me.
trying to keep him alive.
No Death! you cannot take him.
you can’t take him. you cannot take him.
not this one…. no…. no…!
he has a boy. he has a mother. he has a sister.
they need him. i need him.
please let him stay.
you can’t take him!
you CANNOT take him!
i can still hear my voice… my screams, as i find him…
lying, curled up, on the bedroom floor.
pale. like Death.
cold. like Death.
but still breathing. barely.
time slowed down.
it was the longest 22 minutes of my life.
and his life….
his life, worth saving. because he is beautiful.
too beautiful for this ugly world, for sure.
i am sorry. i am sorry that i didn’t see the signs…
those warning signs.
i feel like i have failed you.
your life should have been saved long before you had to resort to this…
but your life was saved.
and for that, i am grateful that i acted upon my ‘gut’ feeling.
grateful that we can have more time together, here.
in this life.
in this moment.
i hope… i love… i remember… i cherish.
yes, we all die, and
ultimately, we all die alone.
it doesn’t matter if our deathbed is surrounded by all that need to be there…
we all must make that final journey alone.
no matter what.
sometimes, we have time to prepare – but in reality, nothing can prepare us.
sometimes, we don’t have time
then spend all our time wishing we had made time.
time is all we have. make the most of your time. this time.
because… they will miss you when you’re gone.
time heals, yes.
but calendars are bastards.
(c) Kat McDonald 2020
image source: Pinterest
Artist: Unknown… but if you DO happen to know who they are, please leave details in comment box…. thank you.