This last week we have faced the death of another friend, a very dear 57-year-old man named Michael, the person I wrote the poem about on Saturday. He has had to live in an aged care facility for the last 18 months, and I am sure his experience of living in aged care, in his mid fifties has been quite difficult for him. It has been challenging for us all. Confronting for me too, as it could be me one day.
His immediate family lives in the UK, and I have felt their devastation and deep sorrow and anguish of not being able to be here with him, having to rely on us for any news at all, and to pass on their love.
It is a rare gift and privilege being able to hold a person’s hand and be with them as they transition from this world to another. The staff at the nursing home were deeply touched by Michael, and felt like his extended family. On Friday night after he took his last breath, they were as tearful and sad as we were, and really had taken Michael into their hearts. They too felt honoured to have known and cared for him.
The emptiness of death resonates with everyone who has loved; it is a feeling of complete and utter sadness, a time when we question life itself. The ‘why’, the ‘what is it all for’, the ‘what does it all mean’. It has left me feeling numb and sad. But also grateful to have known him, to have been able to call him my friend.
Michael had an incredible intellect, and hilarious and often eccentric wit. The memories of our times spent laughing and enjoying food and wine together, alongside the memories of his struggle with serious terminal illness, helps to fill the void. Love, laughter and shared times make the journey of grief easier.
Dementia has stolen some of my memories of Michael, but not all, for which I am eternally grateful. In the soul-searching hunt for photographs to make a photo story for his funeral service, I saw pictures of myself sharing moments with Michael and our joint friends. Some of those moments I don’t recall at all, but at least I have evidence of the love and laughter, and deep friendship we shared, and will help to fill the emptiness I feel at his death.