Too Slow, Too Fast by Debra

Too Slow, Too Fast

How do I begin to record a conversation about dying? My father’s new caregiver had asked Dad how he was and he said that he was tired, tired of living. The next day, I spoke to him and he said that he was tired of waiting to go “above or below”. He thought that he would go above only if his sins were forgiven. Dad is Catholic.

He talked about going to see Uncle Walter and his Godma to “pay his respects”. Then he asked for a bicycle because he wanted to see his sister in Tampin. When I clarified, he agreed that it was his brother, but it did not seem important. I wanted to keep the conversation going because I was keenly aware that this was the most lucid Dad has been for a while now. When I asked, he specified that he wanted a blue bike with a carrier at the back for a bag. He said that he would take about four hours to get there.

Then the conversation changed. He said that he would miss us. With a heavy heart, I encouraged him to go first, that we would follow later. He was very specific and lucid throughout the whole conversation. This was the conversation about going on a journey. We both knew that we were speaking on two different levels. He did not say too much more but both of us knew that he was preparing us for his leaving, and I could not hold him back. This was the real test – for me to “let go”.

Dad had a stroke four years ago and became wheelchair-bound. His low mobility must have been difficult for him as he had been pretty active and sociable. We tried many different treatments once he was out of medical danger – acupuncture, physiotherapy, exercise, day-care but each took its toll. After about three years and numerous hospitalisations, he became bed-bound. This lasted for about a year before this last conversation heralded a definite transition to the after-life.

Sometimes I think that he lived through four long years of curbed mobility but left us so quickly. And the wake lasted four interminable days but the funeral was over in the blink of an eye. So I tried to capture it in the following words…

Too slow, too fast

A long illness.
Crisis –
Fewer tubes,
Cycles of hope and anxiety.            
Too slow.

Expected, but uninvited,
Death comes swiftly.
No breath,
No pulse,
Moment missed.
Too fast.

Desperate attempts to recall events,
Just to capture the moment.

Friends visit,
Relatives attend,
Tired but present,
Every day longer than the one before.

Expected but not prepared.
It starts:
The hearse arrives,
It’s over.

Debra Scully, in her 50s, works in the Civil Service.

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