Nobody said life was fair. Thirty years as a police officer has taught me that much.
When Mrs Weeks’ mother went in to hospital for a minor hernia operation, we never thought in our worst moments that she would never come out again. She caught an infection which led to pneumonia. Mrs W was called to the hospital when it was thought her mum was on the way out. They said their goodbyes. Her mum was a fighter Ã‚Â & over the next 2 weeks we got called on 4 times. Each time the parting was more painful than the time before. She died. She went into hospital to be made better, it was bitterly sad.
Mrs Ws’ dad wasnt good at looking after himself. He had never cooked a meal or ironed a shirt. He deteriorated after his wife died & Ã‚Â found himself in the same hospital as his wife. He was in & Ã‚Â out over a year or more. He got taken in by ambo one night after neighbours found him in a confused state. He died completely unexpectedly. We didnt get the chance to see him before he went.
Earlier this year Mrs Ws’ brother was diagnosed with liver cancer. He went through chemotherapy & various other treatments. We were due to meet him Ã‚Â & his wife 2 weeks ago for a pub lunch. We don’t live near my wife’s family, we see them once or twice a year.
His wife called us on the day we were due to travel to them to say David was feeling too weak to make lunch.
A week later he was taken into hospital with an infection, they treated him with intravenous antibiotics.
We had a phone call completely out of the blue to say that his kidneys & Ã‚Â liver were failing, they thought he might die that night or the next day. It was 10 o’clock at night. We explained to the children who had no idea their uncle David was so Ill – neither did we – we set off on the 2 hour journey to the hospital.
We got there around midnight & made our way to the oncology ward.
David was in a sideroom, a small light was on over his bed, he was asleep. We were completely shocked with what we saw; I’m a big bloke, over 6 feet & 18 stone. David was easily bigger than me. He has very large features, hands like tractor buckets.
I went to Auschwitz a few years ago, what I saw in the hospital bed reminded me of the photos I had seen at Auschwitz. It was like looking at a ghost. His face was totally drained of colour, skin taught over cheekbones I had only ever imagined were actually present. I could see his pulse in the veins on his neck. His eyes were globes protruding from sunken sockets. It was nobody I knew.
“Oh my god, he looks just like grandad when he was 85”, was all Mrs W could muster. David is much younger than 85, he’s not even at retirement age, though he was made redundant last year.
We watched him sleep. Time went slowly. The nurse brought tissues & Ã‚Â offered a bed to us.
Some time later David stirred, woke & Ã‚Â opened his eyes. He was surprised to see us & asked what time we got there. We said we were just there to give his wife a break & Ã‚Â that late at night was a good time to drive as there was no traffic & Ã‚Â that as I was going onto night shift I’d have been up late anyway, anything to avoid the truth that we wanted to see him before he died.
Over the next hours John dozed & woke. We had little snippets of conversation. It broke our hearts when he started talking about the possibility of getting an orthopaedic bed for home.
He was so weak it was difficult to make out the words, it seemed such an effort to talk or to lift his hand to rub his face.
Mrs W went out to talk to a nurse. I heard her burst into tears & when I looked out she was in the arms of a nurse. She was going through it all again & Ã‚Â there was nothing I could do to ease her pain.
We watched David doze & snore, this once big, powerful man with a big voice, reduced by some dint of fate to a weak & wasted shadow, being taken before our eyes much too soon.
We couldn’t stop so decided to give him 10 more minutes then we’d wake him to say goodbye. Nine minutes later David woke & apologised again for dozing off. We said our emotional goodbyes & Ã‚Â left, it was the first time I ever heard them say they loved each other.
Our journey home was subdued. In the sky above the motorway the occasional asteroid shot a blazing path across the sky. I wondered whether perhaps one of them was coming for David.
There was no news from the hospital by the time we woke up. Who knows how long he’ll last?
It rained today. I went for a walk with my iPod. I Iistened to one of the Palestrina masses. The most beautiful music in the world. It struck me that David will never see his nieces marry – they don’t have kids – he’ll never hear Palestrina, not that he would ever choose to listen to it, but everyone should hear Palestrina, at least once.
I have only cried twice as an adult, once when my dad left home when I was 18 & again when we found out one of our children had a particular condition. I’m not proud of that fact, I blame the job to a certain extent, it robs you of your ability to show emotion. I have come close a couple of times. I am bitterly sorry for my wife who will have lost her entire immediate family in just a few short years when I’ve only lost a grandparent & step-mother.
I didn’t cry today, I probably won’t when David does die, but I will have that straining feeling at the top of the throat when you feel like crying but don’t quite know how.