Vale Alan Gabriel Jones
I was in the city having lunch before a meeting yesterday when I got a call from my mother. My brother had been talking to our father and apparently our grandfather had about 24-48 hours of life left. He had dementia and slowly his mind and body have been shutting down. That process was coming to an end.
I rang the nursing home, said that I wanted to say “good-bye” and asked whether I would be able to wait until Thursday or whether I should go there immediately. The nurse said that they just didn’t know, but sooner was better. I’d made the call from the church offices before the meeting began, so I turned round to the six clergy who’d arrived by then and explained that I was leaving. There are some real benefits to working for the church! They all said, “of course,” and that they would be praying for me.
My father picked me up (my car being back at home; I’d taken the train into the city) and drove me out to the nursing home. And he then left me alone with Pop. He was on morphine, and was curled up in his bed looking deeply asleep. The nurses were making sure he was comfortable, but otherwise everyone was just waiting.
He didn’t know that I was there, at least not consciously. But I talked to him anyway, told him I loved him (which we find very hard to say on that English-stiff-upper-lip side of the family), that I was grateful for everything he’d given me, and that I had always known that he was proud of me, even when I did something as crazy as joining the church. And I prayed for him, that his death would be easy and he’d go gently into God’s hand.
I needed to do that for myself. Pop didn’t know I was there, but I needed to be there.
That evening I got the call from my Dad to say that Pop had died. Dad and I were the last people to see him.
He does seem to have gone peacefully. I’m happy for him, because I know he wouldn’t have wanted to live the way he’s had to with the dementia, not knowing who he is or who any of us are or what’s happening around him. But I’m sad, too, obviously.
I’ve still got lots of work to do to get Sunday’s services organised, especially the big ecumenical Blessing of the CFA that I’m running. And all I want to do is curl up in a corner somewhere and cry and sleep.