Archive for December, 2007

Grief… what a son of a bitch.

It was the 27th of November, I remember it vividly, the coal fire crackled to my right, I was laying flat upon that deliciously fluffy rug I so often pass out on… Reading a book by Bertrand Russell, in which he argues that the world works too damn hard and that we should all be a little more idle, I agree’d with him… Being the man of leisure that I am. It was one of those relaxing moments, when the world and its problems are a distant blur compared to the sharp focus on the book and comfort which surrounded me in that moment… I heard the door open behind me, the sound of the dogs nails sliding and clattering on the wooden floors as they yelped with delight, only my mother elicits such a reaction, so naturally it was her… I felt a presence behind me… No hello though, just an odd lingering silence… A harbinger of doom approached… The complete lack of sound trumpeting its arrival…  Sharp intake of breath ” I’m sorry Keith, but I just heard… Hugh Quinn has died.”

“Oh…… No…” Were the only words I could summon, a perfect description of my refusal to accept what I had just heard, I knew the day would come, he had grown increasingly worse over the last few weeks I had seen him, but still, my heart refused to accept it, I knew he was dead obviously and that it was true… But emotion is a tricky bitch… You can’t tame her with logic… I dropped the book, bowed my head… That lousy sinking feeling gripped my chest… Tentacles of doom pulling me down, that feeling unique to grief… My mother walked into the kitchen, unable… As all of us are, to find the words to comfort the stricken in their moment of horror… So I lay in silence for the longest time… A new, deeper… sinking feeling  arrived with the memory of my not going to see him in hospital the previous Saturday… Guilt. My last chance to see him alive… I spent the day enjoying the company of my brother instead… I needed a break I thought.. I would see Hugh during the week, What a selfish cunt of a decision that turned out to be.. one I’ll have to live with.

My Paps had been in England at a Motorbike show when he got the call, he was back home the same night I heard the news… I remember standing in the kitchen with him as he explained what he had been told by various relatives. Hugh died peacefully in his sleep, ten minutes after my Uncle had just left from a visit, he had died alone in that hospital room, surrounded by noisy machines and blank white walls… Every time I think about that fact it brings me to tears, no one should die alone, no matter how rotten they are… It just seems so awful… The ultimate isolation… He deserved better. I told my Dad I wanted to see Hugh, not just at the gathering before the funeral… It just wasn’t private enough, so we agreed we would go to the mortuary to see Hugh ourselves… Along with his best friend, a woman from Canada, Sharon… Who was already flying back to Ireland having only just left from visiting a day before… She lives in India, in the final few months of Hugh’s life she flew back and fourth three times to see him, such was her dedication to him.

After some delays and some fast talking (It’s not strictly allowed these days for family or friends to visit bodies in the mortuary, but my Dad is nothing if not persistent, so St James Hospital eventually agreed to let us in on the Thursday I think it was. So my Pap, Sharon and I met up at about 5pm and we were brought over to the building which housed the bodies from the hospital…. The sense of dread I had was intense to say the least… But I felt compelled to see him, regardless of what my eyes were about to behold. I needed to apologize for not visiting him, completely illogical, I knew it in my head, but to my heart it made perfect sense, so I listened to it, having ignored it so often in the past only to my cost. The room was naturally cold… Hugh lay on a steel cart… He had a white sheet draped over him to about his neckline.. His head bandaged up to keep his jaw from slacking open… So pale and shrunken now. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw but I somehow managed to hold it together even though I felt like falling over and shattering… His eyes were slightly open, that vacant stare common to the dead of both man and beast alike… No matter how hard I try I can’t reconcile the emptiness in the eyes of the dead with any sort of sensible explanation in my mind… I can never figure it out, were has the life gone? Where is that spark I cherished? I’m only ever left with a dreadful sorrow filled confusion. We each spent time alone at his side… Sharon was very shaken up… She knew him better than anyone and seeing him like this must have been agony for her… But she was Brave, Incredibly so. I stood at his side when my time came and watched his face..i never said a word but I uttered a single thought over and over in my mind …”I’m Sorry Hugh, I’m sorry I did not come to see you one final time…forgive me… Please.” Before I left the room I kissed his forehead, it was so icy cold… But I really needed to touch him one last time… My father and I waited outside while Sharon spent some time with him by herself.

When we left… We were all three, more than a little shaken up, which was to be expected… The original plan was to have Sharon stay by herself in the apartment Hugh lived in, but after that experience we convinced her to come home with us back to Meath. After a night of rest and reflection we headed out to the funeral service early, it was non-religious and my dad “hosted” the entire thing… Calling various people up to speak who then shared their experiences of Hugh, a lot of it very funny. It was fitting, that we should all gather to laugh at the End… He would have loved it, after the service we went to a local hotel were food was served.. I got to met Hugh’s Ex-wife and daughter, some of his friends from Canada and Egypt who he’d lived with over the years, I learned quite a bit more about him then… How much of an adventure his life was at times… A regular Dharmabum… Several hours and several drinks later we stumbled out to the car and drove home.. Exhausted, drunk and relieved in many ways that the whole ordeal was over… All that was left was to see Sharon off the next morning.

Before we left for the airport Sharon came into my room and left a book with me “Are you Too Sensitive?” I raised a brow but said nothing… At first I thought it was a joke… But I read the book and it’s actually a description of people who apparently have an almost sixth sense about the people and world around them, it’s a nice idea and I appreciated the thought, but I can’t say I believe such people exist or that I am one. After saying goodbye to her at the departure gate I shed a few tears… Not sure why, perhaps because she was the last link left to him outside of my own family circle and now she was gone, teary eyed into the mill of travellers, back to overcrowded India, broken hearted, her best friend dead. Grief is a tough cookie to deal with, you feel helpless, almost like drowning in an emotion you desperately want to escape from but can’t… So you have to bare it with all the strength you possess, until gradually over time,  the pain eases slightly, or perhaps our capacity to carry it increases… Either way… I’ve dealt with enough to last me a while. To all those people I care about… Please don’t die in the next year or so if at all possible, I need to recharge the aul’d heart batteries.

(Finally got around to finishing this.not to my satisfaction but finished nonetheless)