I am sitting.
I am sitting . . . and waiting.
I am sitting and waiting for my beautiful father.
I am sitting and waiting for my beautiful father to die.
It’s six full days.
Six full days now since he stopped being able to eat or drink.
He had had enough.
They give him 10 mls of morphine every four hours.
“Which is rather a lot”.
They turn him every two hours.
They monitor. They care. They love him.
Most of them come to say goodbye when their shift finishes.
He can still move his fingers, squeeze a little,
Move his jaw in response, pout his lips.
He blinks for yes.
He can still breathe in, breathe out.
It’s rattley when his mouth is open,
Then a fifteen second rest between breaths.
Has he stopped breathing?
No. Just resting.
Having a little requiem.
And his heart, his beautiful heart
Cannot stop beating.
The staff all love him.
They stroke his head and his arms.
Tell him where they’re going today.
What they’re doing with their children.
Which day they’ll be back.
I doubt if he knows it’s Wednesday.
Last night he spoke.
One asked, “are you comfortable Murray?”
He answered, “Yes.”
“Do you feel any pain?”
“No” he said, quite clearly.
Everyone loves my father, and no wonder.
An exemplary life,
A wonderfully gentle, loving man. Always.
Even when his bosses mistreated him, he just left,
Six weeks before long service leave, much to mum’s chagrin.
They invited him back, but the opposition got him.
And now, thirty years later, he is ready to go.
He has seriously wanted to go for over a year
To that great long service leave in the sky.
A ninety year reward.
The morphine helps with any pain,
And changes the messages from the brain
To the respiratory tract.
There . . . he’s breathing again.
He breathes indomitably on
Into the seventh day.
Now four big breaths, one small breath,
Then thirty seconds stillness.
Last year he told me,
“I talk to Dorothy every morning.
I’m looking forward to seeing her in heaven . . .
I hope she recognizes me!”
So now it’s the seventh day.
Gradually the changes ring in.
It is now only three breaths then thirty seconds stillness.
I hold his hand under the blanket.
I say, “I can hold my breath longer than you.”
One side of his mouth rises in a smile.
It’s a miracle.
If he was a Catholic, he’d be a saint.
The clock bangs its loud one second ticks.
He holds for thirty eight seconds.
I say, “you win. I don’t want to play this game any more.”
He squeezes my hand.
It’s going to be another long day!
Late on the eighth day
One of the staff lovingly combs his hair, and says,
“Goodnight Murray. I’m going home now.”
They love him.
I am amazed at how much they care.
He’s only graced this retirement home for three years.
He has been in good hands.
I want to stroke each line on the back of his neck,
As he lies, slightly crooked.
But I don’t want to disturb him.
In this moment I love him most
Of all the men in the world.
So how can I sit here
Wishing for his death?
Well . . . he has wanted it so long.
So long, it’s been good to know ya.
Debussy plays his Preludes in the corner.
Along with the eyeballs and the nose,
The ears don’t shrink.
The rest of him certainly has.
And I look at Dad’s ear, so intricate.
I imagine all the things this ear has heard,
But I digress.
The hearing is the last thing to go.
I know he can still hear.
When we return from our take away dinner,
I put my hand on his, and ask,
“Are you still here?”
He blinks both eyes in affirmation.
Now we are at the end of the ninth day,
And still we have call and response.
I call, “Lisa and I are going out to get dinner.
Don’t wait up.
If you are ready to leave before we get back,
I will be very happy.”
But this is not about me.
In the morning it is ten days
Since he decided to stop.
It’s not that easy.
It hasn’t worked.
I keep re-assuring him,
“it won’t be long darling dad.”
Maybe they’re using sub-standard morphine.
His respiratory tract is still working fine.
His head looks beautiful.
His brain is working.
Why can’t he stop?
I know I could never do the pillow thing.
It would be outside his morality. His beliefs.
I ask him, “have you changed your mind?
Would you like a sandwich?”
He’s still here, with a new rhythm.
Five big breaths, one little one,
Then sixty seconds stillness.
How does this shriveled body and its organs
Keep to this exact new rhythm?
I go to bed,
Wishing all fathers were this wonderful.
How peaceful and co-operative and loving
The world would be.
His only conquest was my mother,
And she had to organize it.
Regular shallow breathing. No pauses.
We say, “we’re going out for awhile,
Don’t wait up!”
We go to get a Chinese massage,
And finally, in his own time,
And looks peaceful, pleased,
And at rest.