Holding Your Hand

Cormac joined us in my bedroom. Was he crying too? Each person who was there probably has a different memory of the sequence, the words, the pain. It doesn’t require many words to relay the news of someone’s death. The ‘norm’ is for an unexpected death to occur on another ‘ordinary’ day – for it to appear out of the blue, for the news to break on a backdrop of daily life, over the course of a working day: when cooking dinner, commuting to work, getting ready for bed. This was no ordinary day, and despite my very conscious mental and emotional preparations for Dad’s death – I’d tried to anticipate the practicalities, attempted to get a hold on how I would feel – that this would have happened was the last thing on my mind.

My younger sister curled into bed beside me for twenty minutes, which was how long we had, before going back downstairs to have prayers by Dad’s coffin, close and seal the lid, carry him to the end of the street, and slip him into the hearse for the remaining short drive to the church to the funeral. We curled up and cried. It was to be the first of many women crying alongside me. Áine cried with me. Teresa. And Gina. And Ken’s sister, Pam, when I got to Canada a few days later. Meadbh when she came from London. Many more. There is great comfort in being joined in one’s tears. Communion.

Pulmonary emboli. That’s why Ken had been admitted to an acute ward twenty-four hours before he died. Diagnosed in A&E where he walked in on the Thursday night, his tightness of breath having become unbearable. He had been at the Ottawa General Hospital for around twelve hours before he called me to tell me. My memory now is that his voice with tinged with fear as he explained his condition, but perhaps I am reading backwards into what then happened. At the time, I think I was a lot more afraid than he was; he reassured me, and later his sister called and reassured me further. Blood thinners were being administered and he was in a ward where he was being closely monitored. The clots would break-up, dissolve, he’d move to another ward the next day. There was reference to a recovery period, to a delay in flying home, but all that was far from my mind.

The night before Dad’s funeral, late on, few wake-goers left in the house, I told Aidan. He was close to Ken and was one of the few people at the wake who had asked where Ken was, the focus (naturally) having been on Dad. I cried a little as I explained he was in hospital. One of my brothers, Eamon, was within earshot. He joined the conversation, saying a few words about how Ken had been lucky to have it identified, that he was fortunate to be in the care of a good hospital. Eamon, a GP, knew about outcomes. I think, now, there was hesitation and a tone of apprehension as he spoke, or is this another of my revisions when I read back into the past?

I know that I went to bed on 15th April feeling that Ken was safe, it would all be ok. I was wrong.

Ken’s last communication with me was via WhatsApp, sent in the middle of the night.

“Sorry I missed your call, love. Yes, I was sleeping – which pretty much resembles the pattern of an old cat. Kev and Barb just dropped by on the way home from a family dinner at Pam’s (11pm). Nice to see them. Sounds like it was a lovely night with all the gang. Including Aly, Aaron, Kate and Scott. Hope to move to a normal ward tomorrow, fingers crossed. I am there beside you today, my love. Holding your hand. I love you with all my heart.”

RIP Kenneth Bush 31.10.61 – 16.04.16

18 thoughts on “Holding Your Hand

  1. People are as brave as they have to be at any one time, there is no real choice in the matter, but writing now, about such pain is pure courage; a lion heart behind a velvet pen.
    MND took my father too soon, but there was a sort of fumbling footering goodbye, inadequate and awkward as it was. Your double loss, instant double devastation, could have curled you into a ball of grief, but you have managed to make use of your sorrows.
    Loss is loves legacy, it should linger as the wounds heal but the scars remain.
    Well done, beautiful as always

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  2. Eimear, thank you for sharing. The reading of this is so emotional, so awful, I wish I was beside you to give you a tight hug.
    You are an unbelievable courageous dignified beautiful woman.
    I could go on… my heart is hurting for you.
    God bless you🥰🙏

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  3. How cruel fate can be. Devastating loss on top of losing your first man, your dad. Thinking of you this rainy morning in Canada. Having a cry for you for your loss and what could have been. Just plain unfair.

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  4. This was heartbreaking to read Eimear. So brave to express the loss of your father and husband with such honesty and eloquence. Thinking of you and sending special love.

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  5. I am so sorry for your losses, Eimear. Words can’t do the feelings justice, but your writing and words can and do. I’m sure I’ve cited this to you before: ‘If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.’ (WB Yeats). x

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