Saturday 8 August 2020
Clara’s Dad died around 2:30 this morning.
Clara was on her way to the hospital to take over the overnight vigil from her brother when her father took his last breath. In a way she was relieved not to be there when it actually happened. She had already spent much of the previous 48 hours with him, witnessing his final lucid moments, and listening to his shallow breathing as he peacefully slipped away.
His death certificate will probably say something like pneumonia (ironic on the hottest day of the year), but the truth is he simply died of old age. He was 94 and it was his time to go. He’d had a good innings as they say. And, mostly thanks to Clara, his last three years living across the road, had been comfortable ones. Clara had visited him nearly every day in that period, and I had periodically taken him for drives round the local area.
When my mother-in-law died two years previously it was sudden, and I felt a surge of emotion at the time. This time, the best word to describe how I feel is probably “content”. I’m happy that this decent, mild-mannered, erudite gentleman of the previous generation passed away gently and mostly painlessly, more or less at a time of his choosing. His children had strived to give him the best possible last few years, and were with him at the end. A fitting end to a worthy life as a college administrator and lecturer in English, but also a husband, father and loyal friend.
There’s not much you can say to your wife when their remaining parent has just died. Throughout the day, I tried to be there if she needed anything, but I also tried to give her space. I avoided talking too much, lest I put my foot in it by saying something unintentionally insensitive.
By 6pm, I suggested we go out for dinner to a local pizza restaurant. Conversation inevitably turned to funerals (how does that work with Covid-19?) and the flurry of other activity that will take over the coming weeks and months, including the grim business of sorting through the deceased’s possessions. Clara is, of course, also starting the process of grieving.
By the time we got home, we were both exhausted. It had certainly been a long day. A sad day, yes, but also a day to reflect on a life well lived, and a family baton handed over smoothly to the next generation.