He did, he did, he did

Before Rob’s Dad died I remember reading, or having someone tell me that nursing someone when they are dying is much like witnessing and helping a birthing mother. The passage of life, both in and out similar in so many ways. I remember telling Rob, not knowing if we would all be there at the time, but knowing that he likely would be and that he should think of it in the same way. Being the silent strength that person needs. Playing music they love, being there, holding their hand. Being a Mother I know how entirely personal giving birth can be. It’s just you that has to get on with it, much like the baby on the inside coming out. It can be scary and overwhelming, but once you give into it, trust the process and the body to do what it needs to do, it can be a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. A sacred privileged part of life to experience.

We were lucky enough to be there when Alan died. We were the love that carried on around him. The noise of life, of girls laughing or fighting with each other, a crazy dog running around, just plain life that I am certain gave him the strength to go on, whether he wanted to or not, because he knew that we would be ok. The girls sat around him, piled into bed next to him and laid with him after he had died. We had no nurses, no real intervention, just being there and being the love that he needed to send him on his way.

It was bittersweet. The true meaning of the word to see the sheer pain that loss is causde when you see and feel the heart breaking of loved ones left behind. It’s raw and it’s painful and deeply personal.  It’s also so beautiful to see that we are just vessels throughout our lives, the moment that last breath is finally, slowly, painfully taken, we can see that the spirit of that person, their life essence, their humour, their experience, their love, gone from here.

For now.

My mother in law and I dressed my father in law after he had died. The two of quietly talking to him as we dressed his body. We laid him, he sat with him. It felt like an ancient moment that I feel truly lucky to have been a part of and one so many of us never get to do when we lose loved ones in hospitals. He was in his bed, in his home and it was almost 24 hours that we got to be with him before his body was taken away. We could sit and talk. We could say the things we needed to say, perhaps things we couldn’t before. And cry and be with him as he went on his way and we tried to come to grips with what had finally happened. Bittersweet.

I have spent much of the past year wondering and thinking about where he is. Where could they possibly just BE? Go to? It seems incomprehensible to me that a life so full can be here, and then not be. I hear stories and placations and platitudes of goodwill. That the tears are the love that no longer has anywhere to go, that the memories live on in our hearts and so on, and they do, you’re right.

I listen to music and I look for signs. I often have vivid dreams of death and corpses. I hear voices guiding me. I read books and poetry and listen to stories of loss because it’s so strange that somehow they are just no longer here and how can that be? People send me links to stories and I recently watched a video (I apologise in advance because I can’t remember who the person was only that she was a young woman who had lost her husband to Covid and she is deep in grief and loss and I know someone will tell me who it is so I will be able to share her name and you can look it up too). She had someone tell her a story that resonated so she shared it.

You know when you are pregnant and the baby is separated with only a thin layer of your body between the world that they know: your womb as their entire existence. They are safe and get all they need in there, blissfully unaware of the world that lives outside their world just on the other side of a uterus, some muscle and some skin. The sheer size of our world and all that exists in it: beauty, pain, misery, joy, it’s just there, and yet they have no clue it’s just…there.

And what’s to say that maybe death is also just there? The same amount of distance away and we just can’t see it because we only know this world and this existence but maybe it’s just there too. Imagine that?

Gosh I love thinking about that.

And I think that it might just be true you know? Those silly signs you get, the songs. The way sometimes you get in the car and just cry because you miss them. The conversations you have with them, the answers back that you hear them say, they are saying them because they are just there.

The first anniversary of Alan’s death was on New Years eve when we were at the farm. It was a date I was nervous about I suppose, because it just seems like a date that should be a big deal. But mostly it’s just another dumb day reminding us that they are no longer here. We were up there with Sue for a week after Christmas and the new year as we always have, and always will be over this time of the year. There are long summer days and nights under the wisteria, there’s swimming and fruitcake. There’s loud rock and roll and too much wine and the last few years lots of tears as we prepared for the outcome when Alan was diagnosed and then when he died, and now when we try to get through the loss of him. The day was a stormy and wet one. So different to the dry, wet and smoky one of last year. We sat and talked about the day, remembering the bits of his final day last year and looked at photos. We talked a lot, as people do who go through a big thing together and need to talk about the bits they remember of the day. I got in the car and the first song that came on shuffle of thousands of my songs of course was I guess that’s why they call it the blues. Of course. We sat a place for him at the table that night and we talked as if he was there. His ashes were there. We poured him a wine, we laughed and we cried. A moth, the most beautiful moth that you could imagine came and landed on Rob. An inside joke between him and his Dad that they shared that was beyond ridiculous and hilarious. We sat by the fire asking the same questions the three of us have asked all year ” where is HE?” and the Beatles played in the background “here, there and everywhere” and I said “of course”. Of course. Of course. Listen and you can hear all they are telling us.

I know that our loved ones who pass on are just there. I’m certain of it.

They are the little green light that shows up in photos.
They are songs you hear that make you reel in pain and sadness.
They are the birds that fly in. The butterflies about.
They are the humour you see alive in your husband and kids.
They are the conversations you hear in your mind when you are sad or angry.
They are the memories of wonderful times spent together and the vow to create more.
They are the reminder of simple beauty in the everyday.
They are just….there. Out of shot, a thin layer between us and them.

And maybe that’s what makes it all so impossibly hard at times, because if they are just there why can’t we see and hear them one last time?

It’s just plain bittersweet.
Did they still love us?
Do they miss us?
He did, they did, they did, and they do.

Comments

  1. I’ve been trying to avoid thinking about death in the past few weeks, but that was a comforting read.
    xo

  2. Just beautiful writing and sentiments as always Beth. He is still with you because you continue to honour him with your thoughts and writing.
    You reflections on being able to be with Robs Dad for 24 hours after he died reminded me so much of the Islander culture I saw on the show “The Casketeers”. It is a heart warming and often funny docuseries about death and a NZ funeral parlour.
    Go well today and always Beth.

    • We both watched that show and loved it. So funny and sweet and lovely. Death can actually be a really funny time too it’s the weirdest thing.

  3. Thank you for sharing this.
    Cheers Kate

  4. Oh wow Beth, so beautiful x

  5. I remember a year ago reading your thoughts and feelings about your FIL’s death and it resonated so clearly with me for at the time I was nursing my Mother through the last month of her life. I read your posts knowing what was coming here and not sure that I had the strength to endure it. Mum had come to live with us in December after her second diagnosis of bowel cancer and her decision to have no further treatment. We didn’t know how long she had, she was so strong we were sure she would still be here next Christmas. Even as your FIL was dying I knew that would be happening here too – just thought we had more time. As Mums main carer 24 hours a day it was equally the most exhausting and most intimate, most important and yet the most special time between my Mum and I that I was lucky enough to have. My Mum died, as she wanted – no hospital, in our home, surrounded by people she loved and who loved her. I gave her that, we gave her that. The last week of her life death and dying was normalised – she had visits from her children and grandchildren who laid on her bed with her, talked, laughed, fed her, held her, loved her and said goodbye. And as sick as she was she had the most beautiful smile – knowing that she was surrounded by those who loved her and that she was ready to say goodbye. She died surrounded by people. My brother, my sister, my nieces and my daughter washed her, brushed her hair, chose her clothes, took great delight in removing all the medical paraphernalia that had annoyed her. She was free. My brother and I had done the same for my Dad and I will always remember my brother shaving my Dad, that last intimate gesture between them will stay with me forever. My nieces and sister still say now that sitting with Mum, washing and dressing her was one of the most beautiful things they could have done for her. We were lucky, we have the support of palliative care and a beautiful doctor who knew what to expect and prepared us as best they could – but in the end it was just us. I feel privileged to have looked after my Mum and nursed her to her death – her death is always tinged with sadness but also with a great sense of peace that my Mum passed in peace, as she wanted.

  6. This is so beautiful, and such a wonderful (is that even the right word?) way to look at the passing of a loved one. The woman who shared the story about thinking that those who die are just beyond us, like the world is just beyond the uterus, was Amanda Kloots (or at least that’s where I heard it) – her husband was the broadway actor who died of
    Covid last year. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Beautiful Beth, just beautiful. Each time you write to share something more about your FIL’s death and dying, it gives us, your readers, a chance to reflect and consider what this life and death thing we all go through is about. My Dad is 97 & had outlived Mum now by 14 years soon. Yesterday we both talked of the memories of the days, date and weather now…which is exactly like it was those years ago as Mum was very ill and Dad eventually had to decide her last days (which turned out to be weeks) of care would have to be palliative in a local Private Hospital. What will it be like for Dad? No idea but at least we talk about this, and with my brother too. Thank you again, Denyse x

  8. Thankyou for sharing Beth.. so perfectly written my thoughts exactly but could never put into so many words, yes they are here, all around us I have so much proof.. maybe because my grandparents were ‘healers’ in the early 1900.. I am forever thankful 🙏

  9. Your post reminded me of this much loved book of mine – I highly recommend it. In the Quiet, by Eliza Henry Jones.

  10. Lovely words Beth.
    As a nurse I’ve held death in my hands many times . I’ve also been there for those last breaths of loved ones. To be able to cleanse their bodies,dress them and chat to them all the while is one of my life’s greatest honours.
    I still talk to those that have gone.I know they are there.
    It’s a certain peace when they leave,a calmness,a stillness that I can’t explain. All I know is,it’s a beautiful peace.

  11. It’s seven years ago yesterday that my sister in law died. She was 53. She was in a hospice in London, near her home. My husband went and stayed with her, and our brother in law. They both bunked down in her room for her last few days, talking, feeding her icecream, and taking care. At home I was bundling a little boy off on his first days of school, and his big sister. It was a hard, sad, strange and loving time. So many long flights and time away – we both went back for her funeral and that was the shortest ever turn around we’d had for a visit to England. We needed to be there.

  12. Beautifully written, Beth. What a privilege to be there for that moment of crossing and in the time afterwards. Even when the grief is heavy and thick and heart breaking.
    And I agree. They are just there. Big hugs x

  13. Susan Beauchamp says

    Lovely words Beth. I believe our lost loved ones are always around to guide us in life.
    I was in the room 30 years ago when my dad passed and dream of him often. I also still feel my FIL grabbing my hand 5 years ago and his silent goodbye. Keep those precious memories alive. They do help with grieving.

  14. Alyson Hudson says

    My beautiful friend passed away nearly two years ago. She was a friend that was meant to last a lifetime. I miss here everyday. After she died I looked for signs and wondered the same thing. How could she just be no where?
    I love this idea that they are near. I have had signs that are far more than a coincidence. I am grateful for this and relish in the peace it brings.
    I miss my Annie but know she is close by.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • So cruel to lose loved ones when they are young, I am so sorry about Annie, hope she sends lots of signs your way as she is just there, she just is x

  15. Renae Foottit says

    Oh Beth. Wow.
    They are just there. Such a simple concept that has been thrashed about in a million different ways over time, and yet the way you have written it, it’s like hearing it for the first time. I don’t believe in ghosts but I do believe in signs. What you have written here is exactly how I’ve been feeling since my husband passed away, I just didn’t know it. Thank you for taking the time to share this with us all ❤

  16. Sarah Harriman says

    Thank you for this. My daughter died in Sept and I feel her with me. Her birth and death were 12 days apart and so the analogy of a mother carrying a child with a thin veil to the “other side” seems particularly pertinent. I held her as she took her last breaths as well. And it was special and painful all at the same time. I read the book Journey of Souls and I found it really helpful in understanding the signs that we see.

  17. This is such a beautifully written post Beth. Thank-you. My brother died tragically just over 3 years ago. And for 3 years I have been wondering where he actually is????. It is such a huge concept to get our heads around. I am always talking to him, and asking questions. But I’ve realised that sometimes I really have to concentrate and focus to interpret the “answers” I receive. There is a song that I get “sent” a lot!!! Sometimes even when I am in the car for 5 minutes. It is amazing. I really love your comparison to a baby in the womb, and perhaps just a couple layers separating us from our loved ones. Thank-you, Sophie x
    PS: I actually met you a couple years ago in the Sydney Airport express pickup carpark area, lol. You were there picking up Nikki Parkinson. You made my day because you made a lovely comment on the dress I was wearing. I was actually on my way up to Bundanoon, as it was one of my brothers favourite places, and some of his Ashes are in the bush there. 💕

    • Oh I remember that! Remember when we used too go places? Thanks for sharing Sophie, listen to those signs I think they are there all the time x

  18. I was lucky and got to be with both my mum and dad as they died, holding their hands and talking to them. To be there thinking that they were there to welcome me to the world, and how I helped to see them say goodbye and thank them for being there for us.

    I like to think they are there waiting for me, that mum is watching the plants grow listening to Elvis and dad is reading a book in his chair, enjoying their time with the ones who have gone before them.

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