This morning after the usual routine of washing Ant and changing bedding etc, I turned him over onto his right side and suddenly he started breathing very heavily, loudly, stertorously; when I described it to Jessica, I said he sounded like a dog panting very heavily. It was very frightening. His eyes are half closed and he’s breathing open-mouthed.
Dr Carol was called, she came, took one look at him, put her hand on his arm and said to us, in kind, low tones, “Yes, it will be very soon, now”. We all stood silent. I eventually said, “When you say soon…?” And she answered, “Today or tomorrow”. Which left us even more silent, Lauren was visibly upset and shed tears.
I wrote to my friend Colleen on bbm and described his symptoms. She was a nurse and she confirmed he is in extremis, so the official death watch, if one can put it that way, has begun. Hard to know what to add to that, so I’ll just leave it at that. We’re all sitting in the room, Lauren’s playing some of Ant’s fave songs, starting with Wish you Were Here, followed by Mad World, by Gary Jules, from the Donnie Darko movie. My friend is heading for the Arctic Circle, he says. I wish I were heading for the Arctic Circle. Wonder if I would ever come back.
The tone in the room is subdued, with Antony’s heavy panting overwhelmingly loud in my ears, and very very frightening to me.
Things that will forever remind me of this death watch time with Antony are: Johnson’s Baby Powder, Vaseline, Elizabeth Anne’s shampoo (which we use to wash him), nappies (which he refuses to wear and rips off all the time til we gave up), the smell of urine, sweet smiles and crazy talk from Antony – will list a couple or a lot of these later, of the things he’s said. Bright stars, early winter skies, smoking, silence, long night watches, and him breathing. Usually he breathes so softly I get up several times a night to make sure he is still breathing (to what end I don’t know). I put my hand up against his mouth to feel his breath on my palm. I feel his pulse, remembering not to use my thumb to do so. Talking to him in the dark though he can’t hear me though I do and did strongly feel he could hear me on some spiritual plane.
Chocolate, music, movies – we’re all watching loads of movies. Silence. I said silence already but I’ll say it again and I don’t only mean externally. Linen bed savers. Rust brown urine in a bag, which tells me his kidneys are failing. Facecloths, his boxer shorts, watching his eyes and hands all the time.
He often seems to point and reach towards something or someone we cannot see. He tries to sit up and seems quite intent on what/who he sees; I like to think it is my dad, his “Bampa”.
The poem, High Flight comes to mind, so I’ve copied it down:
“High Flight by John Gillespie Magee
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a thousand things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air,
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.”
Most beautiful piece of writing. That is writing, as I said to Antony when I read it to him the other night.
Other reminders: Sounds of the sea in the silence of the night. Silence. Silence. Silence. Above all, silence. Silence of the muted tongue, silence of the suffering heart, silence so profound it feels like noise. Noise so soft it feels like silence. S I L E N C E. In death, there is silence, above,beyond and far from the sound of Antony’s laboured breathing. Nothing to be said. SILENCE
Craig, Ant’s dad, and Erica his partner are coming down from Jo’burg, Loli’s family is on the way too.
The time is at hand.