Famous Last Words
On Facebook this week there was a piece about a famous person’s last words. They were moving, eloquent and what you really hoped he might have said. I read them and in the back of my mind I was thinking. Who thinks this well when they are in pain, heavily medicated and only just surviving?I was thinking of Ian in those last weeks. All diseases are different and affect individuals differently.I think I was jealous,I wanted that for us. wanted him to have written something for us now.Now I really hope that the famous person wrote it or said it or even asked someone to write a version of those thoughts. They were good thoughts; they were what you want someone in that position to say and feel.I do not doubt the truth of the words.
Our experience is that Ian did not want to discuss leaving us or say any of these last words. He wrote to the children, and me, loving Christmas cards that we all treasure, but there were no last words, no special farewell letters left behind, nothing written and almost nothing spoken. I think he saw that to admit to the inevitable was giving in and he wanted to fight to the last breath and he did metaphorically and literally.
His heavy medication for pain took away the clarity of his mind and it was so painful to watch him disappear into this haze,but for him I hope that it dulled the much bigger pain of loss and grief that he must have been experiencing.
It took us a long time to clear his things and there are still things we want around us. They are the essence of him and it’s the best we’ve got. We have searched in every drawer, pocket, box, bedside table and computer file,looking for something, a word, a note,a clue that he has left for us to find, but after 2 and 3/4 years I can tell you we are now certain he didn’t leave anything like that. We wish he had left something in writing, said something, but maybe we must accept that actions speak louder than words. He fought. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to leave. He didn’t believe in the After Life. He knew that this was it. I thought that maybe it was just him, that was like this, but our counselor says that this is the way in the majority of cases like his, people do not want to talk about their death. I guess I could have asked him,but I knew he loved us and I knew he didn’t want to talk about it. I tried once to ask him in a vague way about funerals, but he didn’t want to discuss it and who would and what would be the point? He wasn’t going to be there to be with us. He knew we would do the best job we could.
So meanwhile I have a little collection of any piece of paper at all that he has written, shopping lists,cards,memos or otherwise and I run my fingers over it as if it is braille and I try to glean the last words from those and feel some sense of him through the impressions on the page.
Most precious of all are the cards he wrote over the years and the cards we wrote to him. In every one we wrote how we loved him and in his cards to us he said the same.In the process of grief this has been so precious and reassuring. Because it is not only his last words that matter so much, but what we said to him too. I have searched and found every card and kept them in a box for the children. They can look at them any time and know how much he loved them and how many times they told him these three words that mean so much.
So in conclusion it is better to write that sort of farewell letter on an ordinary day and when nothing is going horribly wrong and leave it in a place that is easy to find.
Some things should not be left until the last minute. Say it every day, not just once and put it in writing at least twice a year.