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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013

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Colin Will
Dunbar, Scotland, United Kingdom


Letting go.

When did it happen?

Between one second and the next, between two very ordinary seconds.

Let’s talk about it.

In the morning you were agitated, thought I’d left you, but I had just gone to fetch stuff from the car. Eyes closed, you’d tried to get out of the bed, thrown back the blanket. I came back in, soothed you,pulled up the covers. You often told me you’d once taken me to the movies, end of the war—you loved the movies. There was a baby in the film who’d thrown back his blanket. My little voice, in the smoke-filled cinema, had called out, “Keep your covers on, baby, keep your covers on.” I was three then. Now I’m seventy, and it’s me keeping you covered.

When the nurses came in they washed you, changed the under sheet—you’d had a little accident from the laxative, but there was nothing more going in—it would be easier now. They fitted new batteries to the driver, increased the diamorphine slightly. Although you were heavily sedated, the chief nurse said you could hear us—me, the nurses, the carers. After they left I sat with you, talking nonsense, just to prove I was still there. I kept reassuring you my brother Stephen, your third son, would arrive soon from Switzerland, although I didn’t expect him until the following day. I chattered on about the weather.

the sky today?
there is blue, sure,
broken clouds

over the hills,
a wall of pinkish grey
a leaden horizon

Stephen will arrive soon, I told you, Stephen will arrive soon.

I ran a finger above your sleeping skin. Your lips were taut and dry, so I moistened a sponge stick and wiped them. Your mouth opened and you sucked on the sponge and bit the stick. I had difficulty getting it out of your mouth. I was laughing, and joking with you, but you must have been desperate for water.

And then, later in the afternoon, Stephen arrived, had caught a flight a day early, understood the urgency of my phone call. We took it in turns to sit and talk to you, with no replies of any kind. The afternoon carer came in, checked you, brushed your white hair. I made a meal, watched you until the evening carer came in, nothing much to be done. I figured you would sleep now, so we watched TV for half an hour, and then I came in to check you. Your face had changed colour, lost colour, and you looked peaceful and still. I felt your skin, and it had started to cool. At some point in the lost seconds, you had known you didn’t have to wait any longer; you could let go.

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