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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

For my Brother


November 24

Repeatedly, it all seems so unreal,
Something I’m experiencing at a distance,
Dulled, blunted, cotton-wool wrapped.

Then the reality cuts through;
The harsh searchlight airport night-glare
Making everything monochrome bright,
Shadows edged like knives,
The truth cutting and cruel.

My brother is dying.

And I am sitting on a plane,
Flying back home to Ireland
To take part in a death watch,
My awareness ricocheting between shocked numbness
And unbelieving horror.

This cannot be happening.

My brother is dying.

December 6

Once more sitting on a plane,
Once more flying back to Ireland.
No more death watch now;
The news came in the middle of the night,
Digital text flashing in the dark.

Paddy died in his sleep.

Two roller-coaster weeks
Of horror and worry,
Hope and suffering,
Waiting, speculating …
Finally resigning
To the inevitable.

The last agony the old Catholic prayer calls it.
And, yes, there was agony enough
And confusion and distress too.
Oh dear, my dearest little brother,
You fought beyond hope, beyond understanding,
Your stubborn herculean will
Driving your body to heroic feats of recovery
 – astounding the experts –
Before finally succumbing to the reality
Of multiple organ failure.


And then the last, ghastly necessary decisions:
Disconnecting machines,
Discontinuing treatment,
Morphine and sedation,
Sleep … slipping away … death.
Others (we) making the unavoidable choices
You could no longer make for yourself
(And how you would have hated that,
You who were always so insistent
On your own proud, independent autonomy!)

And forever there will be a hole in my life
Where stood my constant childhood closest companion,
A central component in the architecture of my existence,
Unquestioned, often unthought
(Because so obvious, inevitable),
A sharing so close that,
As adults,
It drove us in very different directions
To explore diverse aspects of life’s challenges, joys and dangers.

Some dangers turn out to be fatal.

For me, there will remain the memory
Of two little boys;
A binary system
(One larger, one smaller),
Revolving around each other
In mutual, unquestioning, rivalrous, self-sufficient dependency.

And an image of you as you (aged two, perhaps) look up at me
Trustingly,
And then, letting go of my hand,
Walk away alone into the unknown.
Forever.

Paddy Hunt, October 28, 1961 - December 6, 2011



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