Monday, February 06, 2017

Go gentle into that good night

I wrote this in the depths of Friday night.

My uncle was a presence at most of the significant moments of my life.

He gave me my first teddy, who, bedraggled and moth-eaten, still sits on the shelf.
He 'gave me away' at my wedding thirty-eight years ago.
He and I spent a night sitting in hospital together waiting, as it turned out, for my mother to die.
He was the one who phoned me in the middle of another night to say my grandmother had died. 'It's just you and me now, love,' he said.

And yet I hardly knew him.

It wasn't until he retired and eventually moved back to the village of his childhood that I got to know a bit more about this amazing man. Father of a son with cerebral palsy - when Huw was born Uncle John and Auntie Audrey were advised by the doctor to put him in a home and forget about him - Uncle John was one of the founders of a charity, Fitzroy, that has home-from-homes across England for disabled adults who can no longer be cared for by their families.

But it's not just love and care he gave to his son and wife and his achievements in his working life as well as the charity work; it's the love and respect that so many people have for him and the value they place upon him, the inspiration they receive from him.

After his dear friend, Edith, died, Uncle John continued to care for and play a part in the lives of her daughters. One of them told me yesterday, 'He's been a better father to me than my own father ever was.'

I was glad to hear that but sad too. Sad that we'd never had that close relationship. The closest it came was when I told him that I was being treated for depression and he took me out to lunch and answered my questions about my mother and my father. He said, 'I'm so sorry; I should have talked to you before this.'

We both have our regrets but as I sit here, by his bedside at two in the morning, I remember another night almost forty-five years to the day, when we sat in a hospital together and I prayed so hard for my mum to live.

Tonight I have prayed just as hard that he would die, that God would take him. Out of his struggle, out of his pain. He's had enough, he's ready. He is tired and distressed.

Dying is undignified, It's not right that a strong gentle-man should suffer this. He has no energy to 'rage against the dying of the light.' 

Answer his prayer Lord. 'Dear God, how long does it take to die?'


Anne in Oxfordshire said...

A moving story indeed. I would just treasure the time you have had with you Uncle John , not the regrets. You are so lucky to have spent time with him. I have no uncles in the UK and one very special Uncle in Toronto passed away before Christmas, he was in his 90's. We rarely saw each other but when we did , we were close and got on so well.

My other uncle lives In Australia and has done since 1974. We last saw each other last year when he came over , it was a flying visit and I was ill with Depression. Once Uncle died in 1976. This is all on my mums side of the family.

On my dads , I had one Uncle who I never met at all, due to family differences I believe. My other uncle we did meet years ago but then he passed away. I only met a first cousin for the first time two years ago. She lives in South Africa. The day we met , was the first time we had spoken to each other and of course the first time we had met.

So keep what super memories you can and cherish them. xx

Trubes said...

Dear Liz,
It is sad, I know, the thought of losing somebody you love who has
been with you all of your life,
Sadly, it seems dear Uncle is ready for his last journey to be
in the arms of the Lord.
My thoughts and prayers just now are for him,
and you,
Take care
God bless you,
love from,
Di. xxx.

Leslie: said...

Oh Liz I am so sorry - I really liked him when we met last summer. I could see how GOOD he was and I must admit I was sorry we weren't closer in age cuz I could have been very interested in him...silly I know...but he is a "quality man" and one of only a few I've had in my life. Oh my, this is so maudlin! If he is cognizant, please tell him he is loved across the Atlantic Ocean and all the way across a continent. And squeeze his hand for me.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I am so sorry . He sounds both admirable and lovable ... the perfect combination .
May the end come peacefully .

Katney said...

It is the waiting that is the hardest.


Rose said...

Dear Liz, I am so sorry. I remember thinking of Thomas' poem over a year ago when my mother was ill, and thinking much like you--please, please, go gentle into the night. Thankfully, she did, and I hope that your uncle has a peaceful passing, too. This is a moving tribute to your uncle; he sounds like a great man who made this world a kinder place. Hugs, Rose.