‘Don’t die, Dad.’

A hot morning with the threat of thunderstorms ahead for the wedding day of my third daughter.

Such a strange time we’re having.

Weddings tend to be tumultuous affairs; at least in the preparations, and then on the day after all the work has gone into making the day happen, we get to event and it’s jubilant.

We’ve had the additional strain and relief of somehow getting my husband to the wedding between antibiotic infusions.

The hospital is treating him four hourly and it takes at least 30 minutes to get one dose through his system, first the antibiotic followed by a flush through with sodium chloride and water. Then they can unhook him, leaving the cannula in place and covered with a sock to reduce the chance of further infection.

My husband then has three hours, give or take, to go downstairs for a cup of tea so that he doesn’t go crazy cooped up in a hospital ward all day.

Last Tuesday I took him to the hairdressers. He was overdue for a hair cut and needed one before the wedding. His first trip out of hospital doors in over a week and he was exhausted an hour or two later when we arrived back on the ward.

Today’s is a much bigger outing given my husband will travel to the wedding to be part of the ceremony and give his speech – a short one, and now included within the ceremony as he may not last long enough beyond photos and into the reception before he needs go back to hospital.

It’s exhausting to think about. It’s exhausting to put together these two clashes of life requirements: the liveliness and celebratory nature of a wedding and the call for quiet and rest in relation to a life threatening illness.

But we’ll do it.

We’ll put them together and the one will colour the other. The one will feed off and nurture the other; the one will add a complexity and colour to an experience we’ll never forget.

When my husband first fell ill, when he sat shivering with the fevers brought on by this wicked infection that had crept into his blood stream – only we didn’t know it yet – I told him, ‘You must not die. Not now’.

The words of Les Murray’s poem to his father, Last Hellos, ring out in my ears:

‘Don’t die Dad, but they die.’

In this instance though, my daughter’s father has not died, and he will be there at her wedding with all the humour that is a feature of his personality, the humour and irreverence, and also the sincerity and authenticity that is a part of him, and we will celebrate this wedding with confidence and hope into the future.

By the end of today, it will be over and any images that accompany this post will give a taste of the day with all its colour.

For now, we’re on the brink of something new. And with it I hope my husband’s health will be restored.

He told me yesterday, he’s looking forward to doing things again, by which he means using his hands to make and mend.

He’s a craftsman and a man of many talents. It’s too soon for his hands to lie idle for long.

A wedding and a recovery, all in one.

One day, in years to come, my husband will die – as will I – but it’s too soon now.

8 thoughts on “‘Don’t die, Dad.’”

  1. It’s always too soon, Lis. My husband said during his worst battle “If I could just feel well for a while, I’m sure I could fight this.” It made me think, I can’t ever imagine being so unwell that I might never feel well again, that this is the only feeling I will know until I die.
    Worse is watching a person’s physical strength being drained from them. It seems like such an insult to the efforts they have made in their life.
    I feel very much for both of you, Lis. A husband and father too unwell to enjoy his daughter’s wedding which I am sure he is otherwise looking forward to, and you worried about 2 people you love with totally different stressors. It will be a difficult and demanding day for you. I fear your husband’s health will be the over-riding memory of the day, but what a lovely photo you have posted.

    1. ‘Watching a person’s physical strength being drained from them…seems like such an insult to the efforts they have made in their life.’ Such a poignant insight, Karen, it breaks my heart to think about your struggles with your husband. I’m still confident my husband will recover and i try to convince of the same. Thanks again, Karen. You know what a struggle it is.

  2. I am going to be very angry with my partner if he dies first. But then I will feel, have I don’t enough and prepared him for life without me if I die before he does.

    I’m sure the wedding went well, and I bet you will survive most of your readers.

    1. It’s hard to know which is worse, Andrew, dying first or second but generally we have no choice. I hope I don’t survive ‘all’ my readers. Life could be very lonely then.

  3. My dad died first. He wasn’t supposed to. In my head my mum would go first. I remember quite quickly after being told being annoyed with him because he’d left to take care of my mother on my own. My brother and sister would appear for the funeral and then bugger off to their new lives down south but I’d be the one who’d have to mow the lawn and wash the windows. I was surprised when I got the phone call from my mum telling me Dad’d had a fatal heart attack. She said, “What’re you going to do now? Go back to bed?” (It was in the early hours she phoned, maybe about three.) I said, “I don’t know. My dad’s never died before.” As it was I got ready and was on the first train out of Glasgow Central. Duty called and I always do my duty.

    I expect Carrie to die before I do. She’s twelve years older than me so it’s not an unreasonable assumption. That said longevity runs in her family so she expects to outlive me. I hope she goes first because all her relatives are thousands of miles away and I really can’t see her going back to the States to die expensively. I suppose she would if she had to but God alone knows how long our savings and whatever she gets from the sale of this flat would last her. Better to struggle on here with the NHS.

    Death’s something I don’t get particularly emotional about. There’s a lot of me in Jen in Left. When I started the book I had in mind my daughter having to clear out the flat after my death and all the things she might learn about me in the process. But, of course, I wouldn’t be there to ask and so there’d be more questions than answers. Mum had pretty much emptied the house by the time we got round to picking through the scraps. There were no secrets left to shock any of us. Just a bookcaseful of religious books, a pile of mostly tacky ornaments and a cat called Biggie to find a home for. Biggie because he was a big cat and my mother had a small imagination.

    1. I can recognise you in Jen, Jim. Something of your sensibility especially over things like death and relationships. This hospital thing is wearing me down, and is much worse for my husband stuck inside and helpless but hopefully we’ll get to the end soon. Thanks, Jim.

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