our last hours together

The lead up to & aftermath of losing the one you love

The holidays were over and Jack was back in hospital. Surgery has been ruled out now, the cancer having ‘galloped away from them.’ Chemotherapy was making him ill, doing more harm than good they said, so it was ruled out too. I felt it would be better for Jack if I took him home. I could care for him myself. People from the hospice would help us too. I suddenly felt full of optimism. We would get through this. The move felt urgent. I asked the nurse for the hospice phone number. I would see how quickly we could move Jack. I reached for the phone and the nurse put her hand on mine .

“Aren’t we taking good care of him here?” she asked very gently. “He only has two days left in him.”

So now I knew. When the cancer was first diagnosed I had asked the doctor not to tell me how many days, weeks, months he thought Jack had left. Most of us have known people who’d been told they had six months to live, or a year, who lived for three and four times that long, bravely facing their ‘last’ Christmas, their ‘last’ springtime and then doing it all over again. I didn’t want that for Jack.

“Consider what Jack would want for himself,” the doctor reminded me. “Wouldn’t he want to know how much time he has left, time to put his affairs in order, make his peace with the world?”

The doctor didn’t know Jack, only his tumour. If he’d known him as I did he would know that Jack was almost painfully aware of the joy of being alive. He needed no prompting to live each day as if it might be his last. He had no amends to make, he had never left a kindness undone.

So the answer was ‘no’.

But now death was near, hours were trickling away like a sand in an hour glass turned for the last time. That night Jack fell into a deep sleep after the morphine injection that dulled his pain without ever erasing it entirely. His face was gaunt. He hadn’t eaten since the chemo had made him sick. Dear God, I wondered, how dead do you have to be before you die? I moistened his lips with the water the nurse brought me.

In the dim cold light thrown into the room by a nearby streetlight, I packed his bag … the pyjamas I’d bought him for this hospital stay, the fresh tee shirts, the shaving kit, its leather worn from the touch of his hand. It felt like giving up and it was. Death had already claimed him.

Would I survive? I doubted it. Bomb disposal experts record what they are doing. ‘I’m cutting the blue wire’… so if they die, others will know where it went wrong. In the same spirit, I began what became my book:

“This is the last night I will watch him sleep.”

Copyright Maryalicia Post
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One month later ...

Maryalicia Post

Maryalicia Post is a travel writer. When her husband died, after 30 happy years and a lot of travelling together, she knew her hardest journey would be learning to live without him.

She chronicled the journey though the first year of grief in a poem called ‘After You’ which was published as an illustrated book by Souvenir Press, London.  Recommended by the British newspaper columnist Bel Mooney, After You is also one of the texts ‘on losing a partner’ suggested by Cruse, the UK bereavement support group.

In this series of postings, written for the readers of Aftering.com, Maryalicia describes how her book took shape, in a month-by-month journal of that daunting first year.

After You is available through Amazon.
Her travel website is at maryaliciatravel.com