Eric died today.
Although it was expected, it came quickly. End stage COPD complicated by serious infection. Fortunately the palliative team had been able to get in a hospital bed, anticipatory drugs and arrange for an emergency package of care. The room he died in was tiny – little more than a box room, barely enough space for a carer either side to roll him gently for cleaning and pressure sore treatment.
I was there just yesterday. The family had been gathering in the front room downstairs, drawn from miles around the last couple of days, now patiently waiting for the end, finger-walking through magazines and phones, taking it in turns to make tea, talking about supermarkets and football and the M25 and struggling to make sense of any of it.
‘How’s he doing, poor sod?’ said his brother. ‘Still away with the fairies, I ‘spect?’
Well…you know. He’s struggling, but I don’t think he’s in pain.
‘Would you like some tea?’
That’s kind, thanks, but I’d better not.
‘What about a biscuit? We’ve got biscuits coming out of our ears.’
‘He said he didn’t want anything.’
‘He didn’t say anything about biscuits.’
‘He’s just being polite.’
I don’t normally say no, but I’ve just had lunch.
‘It’s your funeral.’
I’ll just finish writing in the notes and then I’ll leave you in peace.
‘Don’t do that. I snore something rotten.’
One of the reasons the box-room was so cramped was the presence of a large doll’s house. If Eric had made it, he was quite a craftsman. It was an immaculate, three storey Georgian affair, every detail painted just so, railings along the front, slate steps to the front door, a gable roof, curtains in the glazed windows. It looked as if the front of the house was hinged. Whether it was because the weather was close and scratchy, or the weight of expectation downstairs, or a combination of the two, it’s hard to say, but I had the queasy feeling that if I’d flipped open the house (if there had been the space to do it), I’d have seen a miniature replication of the scene I was in.
A dying man in his bed, me and the other carer by his side, and downstairs in the living room, half a dozen relatives, each holding a cup of tea and looking up.