Approximately half a million people in Great Britain die a year. This surprised me because when looking at the statistics I thought it would be more, I don’t know why. But that’s it, those people are just statistics- no one understands the intimate stories. But if you think of it in personal terms that’s perhaps a million people mourning their parents a year [if the deceased had say, two children], several million more mourning grandparents, relatives, friends.
But nobody talks about it. Death is still a taboo subject. Frightened of saying the wrong thing, upsetting the mourner. But what else could possibly hurt more on the pain scale than loosing someone you love? For the time between the moment of death and the funeral it’s understandable, people will cry. A song, a place, the inevitable clearance of possessions from a family home or a place of residence such as a nursing home will trigger a memory. During the funeral, after the funeral, it’s still certainly acceptable to cry. To visibly mourn.
But what happens 3 years down the line and it still haunts you, you still cry but you don’t tell anyone becuase it’s 3 years later and you should be fine, now. You’re supposed to be over it now. What if you feel like there’s a massive hole where that person; who’s now merely ash in the wind, was? What happens when you loose the person [I fucking hate that expression- I did not loose anyone, they were stolen from me. Loss implies neglect.] who you never imagined you thought you’d have to live without.
You see I knew I would always have to live life without Reginald at some point. I wasn’t naive about it and while he was alive I always thought about ‘when’ due to his failing health over the many years in which I had the pleasure and honour of being his only grandchild. I remember being called by the hospital just after visiting him. I can’t disclose how fast we drove, because I think they’d revoke my license. But could we get to the hospital ASAP.
I remember the clinical room which the doctor ushered us into as we arrived. I remember her talking in jargon and riddles and I remember the defining words to come out of my Grandmother‘s lips, so commanding, authoritative and brave- “How long?”. She was stoic- maybe not on the inside but sure as hell on the outside. I walked out the room and began only what I can describe as ‘wailing like a banshee’.
So we sat, way past visiting hours on the ward, with the curtains pulled around the bed. We didn’t tell him he was dying and he didn’t betray that he knew. Because he did. Because he knew everything. We talked about how we were going cook egg and chips for dinner when he was better and at home again.
I remember the last conversation we had. I held his hand and the morphine had made him drowsy. I told him that I would make him so proud- that I would always make him proud. He squeezed my hand and told me that he knew because I had always made him so proud throughout my whole life.
I don’t know if I can attribute watching him die to the reason why I seemingly can’t get over it. Maybe we just don’t give enough attention to grief in our culture. And I think that should change. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. Mine is crying until you feel like your chest is going to explode. Maybe my inability to let it go could be because Reginald’s wife had a monumental stroke and now can’t move. Or speak very well. She has to have someone care for her around the clock and had to give up her house, her freedom and her dignity. I find it very hard to believe in the notion that someone watches over us after they’ve died. It shattered my illusions that he was watching and keeping us all safe, because he’s not. He can’t be. It also means there is no heaven and that Reginald lied- he told me he’d always make sure we’d come to no harm. So he’s just bloody dead. End of.
And that is the hardest thing to deal with. They say time is a healer. It’s not. Time just takes us further from the event and closer to our own deaths. Saturday will be the 3rd year since Reg’s death. We have no plans to celebrate his life and we’re praying to God that his wife doesn’t remember, she’s on that many antidepressants, she doesn’t know what day of the week it is. Maybe for her, this is the only time I think that her memory loss is perhaps a comfort. Death is not the end for many families, nor is the funeral or the subsequent weeks and months after that. It goes on, sometimes unacknowledged but never forgot.
But what I am thankful for is Reginald. And having him as part of my life for 20 years. I am thankful for him teaching me to read and write. I am thankful that he taught me right from wrong and how important it is to be a caring and honest person.
What I’m most thankful for is the chance to have the most perfect role model anyone has ever had.
I love you now, then and forever Grandad. God Bless & Goodnight xx