I never talk about my Dad, but since Mum died in 2012, a great deal of mine and my brother's lives have centred around him. Diagnosed with Parkinsons in the early noughties, he now faced a future without his life partner and full time carer, and the three of us have pulled together to do everything we could for him.
With the exception of a brief (but traumatic) stay in a care home in 2012, we're fortunate that he's always been cared for at home, where he felt most comfortable. He then most of what mobility he had after a bad fall at home in 2016. After three months in a hospital bed his ability to walk had almost gone. Mercifully, he didn't experience tremors, a typical Parkinsons's symptom. As a consequence of his Parkinson's medication though, he suffered terribly from hallucinations. These varied from the occasionally curious, to the (more often than not) heart-breakingly distressing. In recent years, the line between hallucination and dementia blurred. During a visit last October he looked up and told me "You look like someone I know…".
Communication with my dad has become harder over the years. It's been more than two years since I've been able to just ring him for a chat. He not only lacked the dexterity to pick and hold the phone in the right place, but his voice had gone quieter, mumbled and more rattly. Discerning words became impossible. Spending Christmas day 2020 with him, his eyes were shut, head stooped, and the only response from him was holding my hand. During the period of "don't visit elderly relatives" advice in lockdown last year, he lost that last remnant of mobility, including the ability to chew and swallow properly. At the time, the doctor gave him a couple of weeks, but thanks to the persistence of his carers, and pureed food, he lived on. However since then, it's felt as if we'd already lost part of him. Our concern of passing COVID onto him turned out to be less of an issue for him than loneliness.
After a few weeks in hospital in May (initially without any visiting rights due to COVID) he was declared to be on an 'End of Life Pathway'. No more medical intervention could be done, and he could no longer take on food or fluids. A slow decline that was distressing to watch, with the anticipation of the end being emotionally and mentally exhausting.
At least he could be back at home for his last few days. No noisy shared hospital ward with restricted visiting rights. Instead a peaceful bed overlooking the garden and his favourite classical music on the stereo. We could be right there with him until the end. He held on for a long time, but eventually passed away on 1st June at 18:45, while 'Clair de Lune' played on the radio. Brave and stoic right to the very end - he's had to put up with so much.
After the loss of Olive just a couple of months ago, it feels like 2021 is the year of being weighed down by the sheer heaviness of grief.