Death Comes Calling
I call Sally to tell her that her brother has had an aneurism and that there is little chance of him recovering. The coma could end at any time, but probably in a few days, maybe a week, but not much more than that. The words are as flat and hollow as my soul.
I am happy to hear the emotional shudder in her voice as she tells me she will talk to her other brother Richard and will probably fly out.
“OK”. I click the phone off.
I wander up the hospital corridor, but a huge surge of emotion suddenly clouds my functioning self and I collapse into a passing chair. I close my eyes as the words float up.
Aneurism, huge, no chance, days, body shut down, say your goodbyes………
He was warm to the touch, but clearly not there when I saw him. Only a week since the liver transplant, he was doing so well. Guilt rushes in as I remember him complaining of a headache, I dismissed it as side effects of toxins and stress.
Alone with my husband, I cried for all that was now lost and all that had been. My head laying on his chest, the air rising and falling as it was pumped into him.
I am in the corridor when my children arrive. Aged 15, 13, and 9 they smile hesitantly, their innocence at that moment blows me away. I take a deep breath, thank the adult that has driven them into the city and take them into a room the nurse has directed me to. My 15-year-old son’s face falls and he is alert, so I launch right in.
“I am so sorry guys, Dad has had a bleed on the brain, it is bad, he is in a coma, but the Dr has said there is no chance of survival.”
I see my oldest daughter collapse into a chair, white! My littlest girl comes to me for a hug. My boy stands immobile.
“This is your chance to say your goodbyes, but there is no pressure, OK.”
My big girl stands ready to go. My son hangs his head shaking it, he sits down firmly. My little girl gets as far as her dad’s door, but then breaks down in tears and cannot go in. I take her back to her brother. My big girl and I go into the room and she goes to his side and sobs loudly for her Dad to wake up. My heart is broken over and over with her sobs.
“Have you told them?” Her gaze is intense and anger flashed in her blue eyes, so like her father’s.
I nod, “they say they are flying out.”
“Now they come!” she spits out.
After a while and needing to check on the other children, I gently indicate it is time to go and with her burden weighing heavy my girl kisses her dad and runs down the corridor to her siblings.
We are silent on our journey home, there simply are no words.
I receive a text to say that Sally and Richard, my husband’s siblings will arrive the next day. I text them the hospital’s location and then busy myself with the actions of ongoing life.
My son comes to me in the evening.
“Mum? Was I wrong to not see Dad?” I look at my man-child, so vulnerable in his grief.
“There are no right or wrongs, you have to do what is best for you. Perhaps tomorrow if it feels right to do it.” I am hedging his bets, giving him options, trying not to make him feel bad, hoping in the future they won’t blame me for making things worse!
He shakes his head. “I want to remember Dad from before he was ill.”
I can only nod.
I do not receive that call overnight.
The next day, a weekend, I give the children the option to stay home, or go to the hospital. My big daughter hopes for a miracle and accompanies me.
My husband smells bad today, the nurse explains that his organs are shutting down. My daughter still insists on staying all day.
Sally checks in, by text, regularly, as she and her brother travel from the UK to our home in France. Now that death is a reality they come! Their presence has been absent during the long illness and transplant. Old rivalries, misunderstandings, and upset over the distance we put between us and them.
My daughter goes to get us refreshments. I whisper to my husband. “They are finally coming love. They will be here very soon. “
As the afternoon draws to a close, my phone buzzes that they have arrived at the hospital. My daughter and I run down to the reception of the large city hospital to guide them up. Sally hugs us, Richard stands back. As the lift doors open, I see a nurse at my husband’s door, she hurries towards us.
“Je suis vraiment désolé, il est parti, il y a juste un instant. C’était paisible.”
I turn to my in-laws and explain he has gone just seconds before. Sally cries out and I embrace her in her grief. I look at Richard and tell him I am so sorry, he doesn’t meet my eyes, his stony face, ashen white.
They say their goodbyes to their dead brother before they return home on the last flight out.
As the door closes on them, I look at my girl. “I think your dad knew what he was doing.”
Names are either changed or omitted.