Filling the emptiness of death

memories-Favim_com-407582This 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.

5 thoughts on “Filling the emptiness of death

  1. I’m so sorry to hear of your friend’s death – at such a young age. No doubt he needed to be cared for in such a facility (awful word) but, like Esther, I wonder what difference it made that he was not elderly? It’s good to know that you still have memories of him, even if prompted by photos. We only live on in people’s memories – after a generation or so, we really are gone. But you have given us a little window into Michael and his character – and that must be a well-deserved tribute to him.

  2. What a lovely bunch of thoughts you have shared about your friend Michael and the grieving that comes with death. Absolutely lovely. I noticed that you didn’t mention how he died …… you just said “from dementia” …… but I thought people died of another reason that was caused by the dementia. I think it would have been good to mention this so that your readers can learn more about dementia and the dying process with dementia. It’s a topic not many people know much about (and some would have read it and then forgotten …… I’m in this category ……….) ,, Maybe this can be the sbject for another post ….. if you feel up to it. Or just post a link to another page that tells it all, if you don’t want to write about it ….. know what I mean?

    After all, one of your goals is to educate people ……..

    Hope that yoour heart is healing over the loss of your dear friend ……

  3. Kate, just a question – do you think that there should be ‘facilities’ for younger people with dementia? If so, how would they be different to those for ‘older’ people? If not, how do you think YP with dementia should be supported? Especially if their family/caregivers/finances have reached the limit?
    I’m sorry about the passing of your friend and I’m glad you have (some) memories and photos of the good times you had together.
    Hugs!

    • Hi Esther, There is one 12 bed facility in NSW for people with YOD, and the Lovell Foundation is working towards building one in Victoria. A couple of respite houses have available places for PWYOD, but nothing exclusive for us. They will eventually happen, and are definitely needed. Thanks for the hugs too. regarding other services, as there are basically none, I’m not sure where I would start!!

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