When you have children your world changes. For the better, I might add. They enrich your life and fill it with moments and adventures that you never imagined. Your days are full. There is a routine and, especially when they are very small, their needs are great. It is all consuming but I personally, wouldn’t change it for the world.
Then suddenly, something happens in your life. A house sale, a house sale falling through or in my case, sickness and a death in the family. Suddenly, you have to fit this routine into an alien situation. I first experienced it when my dear Dad became terminally ill. We were told that there was nothing more that could be done. He was gone within 3 weeks. We dropped everything: the viewings of our flat had to go on hold, work cancelled, all of the baby stuff we had hidden in our car for viewings was dumped in our hallway. With our 8 month old baby in tow, we literally filled bags with stuff and ran out of the door. I, in the end moved up to my Dad’s in Derbyshire for 3 weeks. My husband had to go back to work during this time so I was left to look after my girl and be there for my Dad on my own. I found it very difficult to spend enough time with him as my baby needed me. I was still breastfeeding at the time. She was amazing. I couldn’t have got through it without her. That smile and that giggle got us through and was a comfort to us all.
We were all with my Dad when he died. It was lovely having such new life in a room full of sadness and grief. Dad passed away at 6:30pm. I realised that I had to get on and do bath and bed. So, life started up again. When she was asleep, I rang the funeral directors and had a good cry. Needless to say, my daughter didn’t stay asleep so she was there when Dad was taken away. I bid him adieu with my little girl in my arms.
Fast forward nearly 18 months and we are going through a similar situation but with my Grandad. At 97, he is dying of Prostate Cancer and a piece of Shrapnel from the 2nd World War, has shifted and ulcerated his leg. It really is very cruel. We have watched him deteriorate and it all came to a head last week. Only this time, my daughter is 2. She walks, talks, needs proper meals and one decent sleep during the day. She is also becoming increasingly emotionally aware so one is a little more hesitant about taking her into certain situations. Luckily, Grandad was placed in a hospice. A wonderful place of peace and tranquility, with truly amazing nursing staff who not only care for him but the family around him. I only wish that we had had this for my Dad. Mum rang me on Monday and said that I should see Grandad sooner rather than later as his condition had deteriorated somewhat. We decided to go yesterday, and take our daughter. All three of us went. We got to say goodbye even though he was semi conscious, and spent precious time with him. We set up camp in the family room and spent the day there going in and out of his ward and looking out for Spike the cat who sleeps on the patient’s beds. My daughter was very taken with Spike.
I didn’t really think about where I was taking her. It seemed wholly appropriate. And she was brilliant. As my husband said, “She made a lot of people smile today.” In a place of sadness, a place where people go for respite, where people go to die, a little girl in a navy party dress and party shoes (her choice), collecting snail’s shells and pebbles brought a little bit of sunshine to many. I can not thank the staff at St. Catherine’s Hospice, Crawley enough for the care that they have provided for my Grandad. Somehow he is still battling but he should be at peace either tonight or if there is someone looking down on him, even as I write this I hope he has been released from his anguish. Cancer is a long, drawn out and painful death even with the best palliative care. The nursing staff carry out their duties with such professionalism and dignity. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
I have said my goodbyes. I shall not see my Grandad again. It was terribly sad. I sat there holding his hand thinking, ’What a life.’ This is a man that fought in the second world war, survived two injuries and the two year journey to get back to the UK. He survived three nights lying on the slopes of Monte Casino, having been shot in the leg. He lay there, able to hear the German line. He shouted out “Hilfe”, “Help!” in German, which he had learnt at school and this saved his life. They took him into their medical tent, patched him up and took him to an Italian hospital. The theatre of war is a very different place and I very much doubt that such humanity would prevail amongst enemies nowadays.
I know that my Grandfather will leave this world having lived life. He has seen it at its worst but he has also experienced some wonderful things and seen its beauty. Wherever he ends up in the next chapter, I know that he will truly be at peace. The world will have lost a true gentleman. I was privileged to have known him and my daughter was so lucky to have had a Great Grandad. In the words of Mr. Shakespeare,
‘He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again.’