fragments of a gift

There is a Spotify playlist for all these fragments. It’s here.

There are shattered fragments. Projections of what I choose to remember. What I choose to remember framed by what I want to remember. What I want to remember better framed by love.

And I’m thinking about the fragments of our life in those last months together. A set of moments in those months when we drove to the hospital and conversed with consultants. And retreated to the Black Country Arms to distil what was happening. To try to make sense of the despair.

I remember the daily texts from my Dad full of hope and courage, and the faith that it would be okay. That we just had to keep on.

That he would just keep on with dignity was his gift to us all.

I remember the Thursday. Discussing caring and how to help my Dad, in The Crossing at St Paul’s, because we didn’t know how long this would continue. And I remember the conversation with the GP about a separate diagnosis for anxiety and depression, away from the dementia, sparked my my friend Jon’s care and attention.

And I remember that when we arrived at my Dad’s the urgency of that discussion evaporated to be replaced with another.

And I remember the hours sitting under Mom’s gurney and waiting for admittance to a ward. And thinking how tiring it is to keep explaining illness over-and-over-and-over again.

And I remember our exhaustion as we drove home at midnight. And trying not to think what this meant. As the hourglass turned for the final time.

And I remember travelling back there on the train with Andrew on the Saturday to watch the Saddlers draw with the Blades. And how important it was that we could chew the fat about nothing and everything for a few hours. About belief.

And I remember walking the back-streets of Walsall one last time to the Manor Hospital. Walking as a penance or as a pilgrimage, set against the sands running out.

And I remember that it was just she and me there that evening. And for an hour and a half I just told her “I love you”, as I held her hand.

And I remember how relieved I was that Jo was just in network range in the North and could make it back to anchor us all.

Jo’s gift: diligently anchoring us.

And I remember that my friends Joss and Sue came over three weeks later for the funeral. And only now do I realise that they were pointing me towards life.

And I could just remember the catastrophe of it all, but to what end? Because the only thing that counts is the last thing she heard from any of us: “I love you”. And that the last thing she saw of any of us was my eyes, full of love.

And perhaps she did everything she could, in spite of everything. And in spite of everything the truth is that I loved her more than heaven and earth.

And this is triggered by the anniversary that looms, and by a friend telling me unprompted that she loved me. An echo of that final moment with my Mom.

So that the thing I choose to remember is the last beautiful, untroubled smile she gave me. A fragment. A gift. Unconditional.

The evil it spread like a fever ahead
It was night when you died, my firefly
What could I have said to raise you from the dead?
Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July?

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

Sitting at the bed with the halo at your head
Was it all a disguise, like Junior High
Where everything was fiction, future, and prediction
Now, where am I? My fading supply

Did you get enough love, my little dove
Why do you cry?
And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best
Though it never felt right
My little Versailles

The hospital asked should the body be cast
Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky
Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth
Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?

Shall we look at the moon, my little loon
Why do you cry?
Make the most of your life, while it is rife
While it is light

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

Sufjan Stevens. 2015. Fourth of July.


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