Faint, Fainter, Fainter Still

In the New Year of 2016, I counted the days between my visits home to see Dad. Each trip home I watched Dad’s eyes brighten and become bluer as his frame shrank and his energy depleted. I felt guilty that there was a long break of seventeen days coming up when Ken and I had booked a week’s break in Peebles on the Scottish Borders. We were to be in Peebles from 16th April, a date I will now always remember for a different reason. But the trip to Peebles was re-scheduled, delayed by one week to allow Ken to travel to Canada to be with his mum as she buried her husband, Ken’s stepfather, who had died, aged 88, to cancer.

And while Ken was in Canada, and I’d travelled back home, my own father died.

His death was peaceful. We were unsure as to the moment that life left him, so calm and serene was it. It was early in the morning, a time of pure light, I sat beside his bed and his hands were cold. I know because I was holding one of them. His breathing was faint, fainter, fainter still, until it wasn’t there at all. It stopped, imperceptibly. Without any drama, no pain or fight, the breath left him.

The first call I made was to Ken. Despite it being about 3am in Canada, he answered the phone promptly. He was prepared for the news, and although he didn’t say he would fly back for the funeral, I knew that he would. Ken would have valued the three-day Irish wake – the tears, the laughter, the remembering, the time spent with Dad laid out in his bedroom, the family de-brief each evening. A time of intense grieving, and healing.

Dad’s funeral was on the Saturday, April 16th. That morning, my sister, Mairead, and I went to her friend’s house to borrow a coat for Mairead to wear to the funeral. Her friend’s husband was there, talking us through the coat selection and being doom-laden about the period of grief ahead for us. ‘It’s horrendous,’ he said. ‘The worst bit is when they close the coffin. You think it can’t get any worse. Then you think the day of the funeral will be the lowest point. But it gets worse. Much worse.’

His despondency was so bleakly overwhelming that it pushed us into giddiness, and, perhaps for fear of weeping, we left his house laughing at the things people say.

Back home, extended family had begun to arrive: Dad’s cousins from England – Shirley and Astrid – Denise and her husband down from Derry, maybe some of Mum’s family from Belfast. It was a morning of tea, tears, and torrential rain. There were photographs, more stories, and – most importantly – there was time spent with Dad before he left the house forever. I felt a sense of readiness. I think my brothers and sisters did too.

Did I get the news when I returned from that coat run? Or was it after dropping sandwiches to the parish hall? I’m not sure. I know that my brother Cormac was on his mobile phone in the street, by his car – or in his car? He looked serious. It was a serious day. I dove past him and came into the house. Probably I greeted some of the new arrivals. And then Áine, another sister, called to me from the hallway. She was crying on the stairs, and she beckoned me up. Clearly this wasn’t about Dad.

‘I’m sorry, Eimear.’

I knew.

6 thoughts on “Faint, Fainter, Fainter Still

  1. Unimaginable, you couldn’t make it up. Thankfully you got the strength to deal with this unbelievable trauma. You so deserve happiness forever🙏❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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