At around this time nine years ago, I was at my parents’ house. A couple of hours earlier, I had been with my father when he drew his last breath, lying in a hospital bed that had been installed in his own bedroom as part of an end-of-life care package to allow him to spend his last couple of weeks at home with his family and friends around him. By this hour of the night, I vaguely recall that the undertakers had already been and gently, respectfully collected his body and taken it away to begin the necessary preparations for the funeral. Or perhaps they were still there, I’m not really sure about the timings. I was not in the clearest frame of mind.
Nine years. It seems such a long time and yet it also seems like only yesterday. He had been ill for a while, spending several months in and out of hospital for the previous couple of years. For all his – relatively – small stature, he was a strong and determined man who had looked the Grim Reaper full in the face a few times before and told him “Not yet!” But it comes to us all eventually and, when the time came for my father, he went bravely and peacefully on his way.
Of course, the irony was that my mother was the one who had been seriously ill for so long. But, as is often the case, it was the spouse or partner – the soulmate, true love and years-long carer – who succumbed first.
Grief never really goes away. It changes, become less sharp, more diffuse with the passing of the years. But it is always there. It doesn’t take much to remind you and re-open the wounds, even if they’re not quite so raw and agonising any more. The trick at those times is to remember the good, the joy, the laughter, the happy days and be grateful for all the time that you did have. Be grateful that that particular person was there in the world and in your life.
Hug your loved ones tonight and every night. Give them the precious gift of your time and treasure every moment that they give you. They are the true riches in this world.