I don’t know if I should write about this, but I know that if I don’t write about this that it will rattle around in my head and eventually take me somewhere that I may not want to go.
My Sunday in
started out well enough. A nuthatch visited the feeders and the weather was
fine. I had a haircut, my wife Gaynor cutting my hair, and was listening to The
Archers watching the dozens of birds that had congregated on our growing array
Gaynor had washed her hair and was drying it upstairs when a knock came on the door. It was Carol, our neighbour from a few cottages down. She’d been to check on her dada, our next door neighbour Will, and couldn’t wake him and asked me to help.
I kicked into automatic as soon as I saw her distress, following her next door and up the stairs to his ‘in the roof bedroom’. I was aware of him in his bed, noticed how neat the room was, his clothes hanging from hangers on the wardrobe, everything in its place, and how still Will was.
‘He’s cold.’ Carol said.
He was cold, the coldest thing I’ve ever touched. I checked his pulse, listened for breath, and remember thinking ‘Will’s not here, where are you Will?’ For all the world he looked like he might wake up at any moment to find me standing over him in his bedroom, only this wasn’t Will. This was some waxwork that had replaced the man and, although it looked just like him, Will had gone.
I’d never touched a dead person before, nor been so close to one. Had I even seen a dead person before, a corpse? I didn’t think that I had. I was surprised how calm I was and hoped that when I told Carol her Dad was dead that I didn’t seem matter of fact. It was such a strange feeling being so calm, so in control, with a dead person in the room.
We went downstairs and I called the ambulance, but before they arrived I went back upstairs again to check Will again. I was hoping to find that he’d shifted positions, but of course he hadn’t.
One last check. Picking up his hand I noticed how hard his flesh was, hard and hard to move, and of course that awful cold again. I’d heard him pottering in his greenhouse just the evening before. How could death creep in so unannounced? He wasn’t ill, he wasn’t on any medication and, for an eighty-four year old, was the most sprightly man I’ve ever met.
Not here now though. Just this (and I know it’s a cliché) shell lying in Will’s bed. An inanimate object that once had grown tomatoes, talked to my cat, and loved to tell me that I’d put on far too much weight.
'You're not here are you Will? Where are you?'
I looked at his ‘eyes closed’ face and knew he’d just died in his sleep; a good way to go, if there ever is a good way, and knew I’d never forget his face as it was then. I didn’t know him well, but I knew enough to care.
Anyway, that’s it really. I think that I feel a better now that I’ve written it down.