LAST TEAR Sometimes it’s hard to cry out that last tear and sometimes you never will! It has been a while since I last put finger to keyboard and even longer since I have felt quite so vulnerable. For some of you this will be hard to read although you can always stop, turn away and forget about it. As for me, it will be even harder to write. Some demons refuse to go away and just need to be acknowledged, maybe faced, if not always conquered! We all have those moments in life when we ask ourselves ‘why?’ We scream from the corners of our minds a bombardment of curses. We attack a God we claim to have no belief in whilst fearing he may just not believe in us, looking for something or someone to blame for we have endured far more than anyone should be expected to. I have seen those closest to me overpowered by ruthless fate. The departing of a mother and the loss of innocence uncovered. The stopping of a life before it has hardly begun and still the threat of more. A fate just as unforgiving for me was turning my eyes into the windows of their suffering. It started this year with the passing of my Mum and even now typing out the words takes me longer to process than I would like. It was not just the fact of her dying which was hard enough in itself but watching it happen bit by bit. She had suffered from breast cancer some years before and also an abscess close to her right kidney which at the time was also diagnosed as cancer! Thankfully this did not prove to be the case. This time however such let offs were not to be handed out quite so freely, in fact not at all. Whatever her life had been up to that moment, both joys and disappointments, was to be paused in that one segment of time. The diagnosis was ‘Pancreatic Cancer’, no cure and no reprieve from any immortal being. A nine month carrot was offered in an attempt to soften the blow but this would not come with any warranty or guarantee of sale; in the end a wise choice on the part of the medical staff for a blocked bile duct was proven to be both an ignorer of time and cheater of cancer. An operation to remove this assailant failed dismally and septicaemia became the antagonist muttered from voice to voice. Probing questions, searching for comfort and prolonging of life were painted over with three little words “How much time?” Short words, unimportant when spoken separately and designed not to sit on the lips for too long, however when put into this sentence they grow to be so much more, burning themselves into the sharp edges of my tongue for even daring to speak them. The reply, “hours, days, a week or more” was a cagey response that did not give a definitive answer and so I waited and watched; second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after agonizing day for three weeks. With the support of my sisters and our partners we embarked on a permanent vigil. After a reaction to treatment and the onset of fitting she was placed in a drug induced slumber. Over time each breath becoming more laboured and forced than the one before; a loud groan of relief hitching a ride on every trailing whisper of air. Day and night became a continuing passing of time abandoning any recognition of sun or moon only her search for some peace, one, two, three, and so on. I would count the seconds between each new breath, part of me willing for the next release of air to come and part of me not! My body was stricken by grief with the feeling of so much helplessness and then guilt for wanting the end to come quickly. The only thing holding back a stray tear in the corner of my eye was some night dust from that lack of sleep and a refusal to be weak. After a time her skin started to tighten with a yellow glow of perspiration and the lines on her face began to melt away. Organ failure was now starting to take its hold and without showing any regret or mercy. As more time passed I found myself counting in double figures between each breath, hoping for her sake it would be her last. Then it came, one exhalation of air which was not to be followed by any more. It is one of relief and freedom on her part but one of loss and pain on mine. My Mum and my friend were gone and no one or nothing could or would ever replace her! So much to take in and it was still only the 9th February 2012 and my youngest daughter’s 16th birthday. In the months that followed an attempt at coping failed miserably. Finally we had some good news, as the first days of June promised a new season and maybe some better times. My eldest son and his fiancée announced that they were expecting their first baby, my first grandchild. It shows that no matter how hard you try to keep a firm hold on the past, life always finds a way of going on. They even stood beside a rose bush where the ashes of my Mum were laid to rest and told her their news, ending up in tears and each other’s arms. That is the strength and weakness of a close family, to invest so much emotion. However that ruthless fate had not finished yet. On the 16th June 2012 they miscarried. I am a man and as such cannot possibly know what it is like to have a life growing inside you, only to have it torn away from such expecting love without warning and lack of fulfilment. Although many years ago my wife and I had the same misfortune we then went on to have my youngest daughter. We often said that she would have never been born if that had not happened; that cruel twist of fate once again. This brings me to where my fingers start to shake and my eyes swell from the end of a heartbeat that flutters with anguish. For she, like all my children, not only lost her Gran and a voice of comfort but also had to face some not so nice demons of her own! Apart from her ongoing battle with diabetes she now finds herself submerged in an internal struggle following an horrendous experience. It is hard for me and somewhat humbling to see such a young girl take all that life deems to throw at her; maybe not in her stride but still with an inner strength and an uncanny knack of making me proud every day. Let your hand slip into mine and together we will be stronger. Here I am in the process of baring my soul and not just in word but in print; not able to resist pealing back the corner of a scabbed emotion and peering beneath. That relentless fate is back, unable to deny its uncontrollable urge to play with me yet again; like an unpleasant boy torturing a spider, removing one leg at a time and finding a guilty pleasure in his actions! This time it’s my eldest daughter who takes centre stage, life not wishing to be accused of being biased. On the 8th September, following seven weeks of illness, she was rushed into hospital with low haemoglobin and a heart rate of 158bpm and close to heart failure! After a blood transfusion she was stabilized and diagnosed with a severe vitamin deficiency and a course of injections was prescribed. Thankfully she has now been discharged although further tests are ongoing. As for me, at that time, I found myself back where it had all started, sitting once again beside a bed in a small room just off a ward, surrounded by familiar yet disturbing sounds and images. Sometimes it’s hard to cry out that last tear and sometimes you never will!
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