Not an easy subject for some, and I have a mixed bag of emotions on it.
Google images: Labelled for re-use (thanks Michael).
I’d never seen Death first hand until I was an adult.
Sure, I’d seen dead animals on the roadside, victims of road kill, but I had never actually seen anything, or anyone, die in front of me.
It was a mystery, it was frightening, it was an unknown entity.
When I was about 5, a guy who was walking in front of me turned into a property and fell over. I thought he was dead and ran crying into my ‘aunt’s’ (in those days, any friends of parents were called Auntie or Uncle).
By the time she’d changed out of her slippers and come with me to the house, he had gone. She knew him well, and said he was probably drunk again.
So that was my introduction to heavy drinking, something that scared me, which could explain why I tend to get a little anxious in the company of someone who has had a few.
My paternal grandfather died in 1974. My father and I had been the last ones he recognised before slipping into a coma.
When the phone call came, the clock in the dining room had stopped.
The canvassing Conservative MP who knocked on the door as my Dad was trying to make the funeral arrangement got a mouthful, and was considerate enough to leave us alone.
It was the first time I’d seen my Dad cry.
I remember the funeral, standing between Mum and Dad, holding their hands, and singing my heart out. It seemed strange I wouldn’t see Gramps again sitting in his chair. I was 17.
When the ex partner’s GSD died, I had to bring her home in the back of my car.
I cried all the way, as it had been me who had taken her to the vet in the early hours two days previously with a second attack of a twisted gut. She had died the night before following a third attack, and the entire veterinary staff were devastated.
I was even more distraught because I could not close her eyes, nor lift her out of the car.
She was buried in the back garden and a few weeks later I adopted a 5 year old rescue GSD who came with me when I left the relationship in 1989. I lost her New Year’s Eve 1990/91 to mammary cancer.
My father died in 1996, the day after my 40th birthday.
There was no fear, no pain, no distress for him.
I was holding his hand when he slipped away having never regained consciousness following a massive heart attack the preceding Thursday.
I was glad I was there, with my mother holding his other hand, to know he was not alone.
I was also there for my Mum, the family pulling together to take it in shifts so that she was not alone when the inevitable happened.
There were some family disagreements after his death, heated words and hot tempers, but foremost in my mind was Mum and how she was coping after 46 years of marriage.
Going back to dogs, when we lost Barney, we weren’t ready. Whereas both of our fathers had died with some sense of warning, Barney’s death was out of the blue. We had to make the heartbreaking decision and stayed with him as the yellow liquid of death was administered.
Afterwards, neither of us handled it well, each wrapped in our own grief trying to come to terms with our loss and to some extent guilt for being so distraught.
There was also anger at tactless comments from non-pet owners who didn’t understand.
Dad comes to me in my dreams, young and whole, laughing and happy.
It enhances my thoughts of an afterlife where there is no pain, sorrow or greed, where we will all meet our loved ones again and be united.
I see Death as a doorway for humans and animals alike. Our means and circumstances of crossing the threshold are yet to be decided. I hope my Dad is there to greet me through it.
Written for Tale Weaver, 29th June 2017