As I advised for the previous day’s blog, “forgive me if some of what I write appears a bit all over the place. It matches my emotions at the time. Also what follows you may find uncomfortable, disturbing or harrowing. As this is an honest account, I apologise in advance for those of you who can stomach the tale.” This still holds good.
After precious little sleep I woke up. I was still furious at Laing. He was looking at me. I have never seen him look like that before. I have no idea what was going through his mind. Sometime or other he wanted to go to the toilet. I helped him get up, even though I felt like telling him as he had got himself lying down it was his own fault and he would have to get up by himself. Lifting him up was always a tricky operation as he was yelling in pain but still appreciated the efforts I was trying to do. He was behaving somewhat contrite when I said I didn’t know how to get him up with hurting him and I didn’t want that. Perhaps somewhere he had realised he had said some things that went too far, if he remembered what he said at all.
No matter. I helped him up and he made it to the bathroom. After a while I hear him calling me. The sight that greeted me confirmed my fears he was not at all well. Toilet paper was torn and strewn all over the bathroom. I decided more or less at this point I was going to have to get him downstairs and get an ambulance. There was no way I could continue like this. I got him to sit on the loo lid (John Lewis’ best!) and cleared up the torn up paper. He seemed oblivious to what he had done. I brought his clothes in and told him he was going to get dressed and we needed to get him to the hospital as he was not well. This time there was no mumbo-jumbo/trying to get rid of me talk, instead it was, there is nothing wrong with me, it’s all in your mind. I was firm and said whatever he said, he had to do it to satisfy me. His response was it’s a waste of time but if that’s what you want …
I got him dressed. He made his way back to the bedroom and wanted to lie down. I kept forcing him up off the bed and told him he had to go downstairs. I would help him. I would go first and descend backwards. After what seemed an eternity I managed to manoeuvre him to the top of the stairs and despite his protestations I got him to agree to get downstairs. I also was busily packing a hospital bag as I thought there was no way Laing would be released once he got there.
I then phoned 999 for the first time since I was at primary school and we were taught how to use the phone, including pressing button B. That dates me!
The ambulance arrived, Laing was sitting in the dining room. The dining chair was, I reckoned, the best place Laing made me see red when he said in his wonderfully calm manner “I’m sorry you’ve been called here on a fool’s errand.” One of the paramedics said that as I had been concerned, they would check him to see what was wrong. One of them spoke to me while the other was checking Laing. He was asked his date of birth and when he got that wrong I corrected him. “Did I really say that?” he asked. Eventually they were giving him oxygen. He started to get agitated and tried to pull the mask off. They then tried a different approach and he seemed more at ease with it, but still not happy.
I picked up his coat as they got him ready to go to the ambulance. “You’re expecting me to come back?” he asked. “If the hospital thinks you’re well enough, of course. I would rather have you home.” I replied. For the first time since this began he was calmer. He actually seemed to believe me that I wasn’t trying to “get rid of him”.
A few neighbours were already out and about. I have no idea what time it was, but somewhere between 7 and 8. I remember the early morning glow quite vividly. I saw something approaching it on a recent clear morning. I had never been inside an ambulance before. Laing had after we had been mugged in Madrid. That required several stitches in his head from when he fell. That’s another story for another time. The roads were pretty clear. After all it was early on a Saturday, so the number of commuters was few. Thankfully the crew decided to take him to King George which, as I commented to Laing, was good as they would have easy access to his records.
He was wheeled into A&E and passed from the care of the paramedics to the hospital. I thanked the guys. They said they were only doing their job, and I said no matter, I appreciated what they had done. I was more relaxed now, knowing Laing was where medical attention would be readily available.
The doctor wanted to have Laing scanned as he was concerned about Laing’s chest above and beyond his cancer. As it was the weekend, the very clever scanner, whatever type it was, was turned off and they had to get the permission of the senior radiologist to turn it on and that would take a little while to warm up before it could do its magic scan. It seemed scarcely possible Laing and I had been in this part of the hospital the Friday before we got married when he was X-rayed all over, it seemed. The scanner was eventually turned on. I was getting frustrated by the delay. After all I had had precious little sleep and wanted to find out what was wrong as soon as possible. They got him onto the scanner table, he was in pain as they tried to get him on and off. I wanted to be with him and sod the consequences of the dosage of radiation or whatever it was that was being used to look inside his body.
We returned to A&E and the doctor said something, I think about a burst blood vessel that was on Laing’s other lung which was causing him all the problems. I think it was round about this time he said to me “I bet you feel vindicated now.” The use of the word vindicated and the way he said it stung and still does to this day.The notion I was feeling smug about being right cut me to the quick. I responded immediately “I don’t feel vindicated at all. I only wanted what was right and best for you.” I detected a childlike look on his face that he knew I was right and he had been very naughty.
Everything is very jumbled up in my mind and I am not sure what the true sequence was now I read it back. It is more or less correct, even if the order isn’t right. It’s not as if I am writing with the aim of gaining a Nobel prize for literature!
Laing was saying to the nurse how we had got married the week before, and telling her how wonderful a holiday we had especially in Burma, where he said we had always wanted to go, but the pervious political situation was not something we could countenance. He had become his chirpy old self again. I was feeling glad. If he was talking normally again, there was hope they might help relieve the starvation of oxygen this blood vessel had caused by giving him a clotting agent or something.
When asked if he been to the toilet he said yes. When asked if he had a bowel movement he said no. I corrected him. He looked at me and said “Really? I don’t remember.” I replied, “Trust me, you did.” On and off they were giving him oxygen. he moved the mask away and i held it at a jaunty angle so he could get the flow. I was finding out what being married meant. We may not have uttered the words “in sickness and in health” but I knew that it applied even being married ‘without the benefit of clergy’. I had been aware of that since before19th March 2012, but from that day forward it took on a bigger dimension for me and motivated my entire existence.
He slowly became more agitated. He was sweating and losing control of his bladder. I was assisting by holding one of those peculiar cardboard contraptions I had seen before at the hospital when he had been on the ward. I was getting cloths and soaking them to ease him, and to wipe away the sweat. He was thrashing about trying to remove the oxygen tubes.
The doctor said he wanted a word with me. I told Laing to do as the nurse said as the doctor wanted to speak to me and I would be back very soon.
I was shown a door and told to wait in there. As soon as I entered, I knew what I was going to be told. The room had calming colours and calm lovely twee images, which have completely the reverse effect on me. I knew. It still doesn’t help when the doctor said “He is dying.” Nothing in life prepares us for those words. Even though I knew full well what I was going to be told, I was not ready to let go. Even though I had lived a life for 10 months of mourning without a corpse, everything had been bottled up inside me and I just sobbed. I was told the cancer had been aggressive and had spread. I was trying to calm myself as I had to be with him. The time in the room felt like hours. A nurse appeared at the window in the door. She was saying it was OK for me to return as the end was in sight.
The nurse who had been with us told me to talk to him and hold his hand. His eyes were part closed, the eyeballs were already rolling back. He was barely breathing. I must have told him how much I loved him dozens of times. I must have told him I was there and everything would be fine. I knew he had died before the nurse leant over to feel his chest. O looked up at her. My eyes said all I needed to say. She nodded. There are times when words are superfluous. It was round about 12.15. We had been married 7 days and about and hour and three quarters. I was now a widower.
All the built up mourning had now got the corpse. I had texted my brother at 9.33: “Pete, been up nearly all night. Laing has had complications and scared me shitless. We are in A&E and they think he may have a clot on his good lung. I honestly thought I was going to lose him last night. Such a drama queen.”
He replied “Shit that must have been scary I can understand your reaction, how’s it looking now or still awaiting an update?”
At 9.59 I replied “He’s having a scan right now. we can only wait. How’s things with with you?” This was because of the snow in his neck of the woods.
So some two hours or so before I was thinking it would be OK. My brother was among the first people I phoned. I tried to get in contact with my cousin, but she was out and about and not picking up a signal as I went immediately to voice mail. I also phoned one of our best friends in Switzerland. I also phoned one of Laing’s oldest friends from his days at BT.
Telling people was bloody hard work. I had to tell those who were close enough in my estimation to have to be told at once. I couldn’t keep up the conversations. I was so distraught the nurse took over for me at least once.
She told me I could have as much time as I wanted with him. I spoke out loud as though he were still there. I told him more than once to haunt me and look after me. I told him how much I loved him. I’ve no idea what else I said. I asked the nurse to remove Laing’s ring for me as I didn’t “want to hurt or damage him.” She expertly removed the ring and I put it on my little finger next to my ring. We had bought these rings quite a few years back as our non-wedding rings. It was our sign to the world we were a unit. I wear both our rings still. The nurse was wonderful. She gave me hugs which helped me enormously.
Eventually I told the nurse I should go as I was only saying the same thing over and over, also she would have to clean up and they would need to take him away. She arranged for a cab to pick me up and told me I needed some sleep. I must have looked pretty horrible. I came home with everything I packed for him and the clothes he had been wearing.
I returned to a cold empty house. At what time I don’t know. Possibly round about 2.30, since I sent an e-mail to my managers informing them of Laing’s death. I went to sleep, but woke up and started to do the necessary things. Phoning several organisations taught me one thing. Trying to get an option on those fucking menus when you are phoning anybody to report a death is nigh on impossible until you have been through about 12 options. Furthermore, the Inland Revenue, or whatever they call themselves nowadays, has the most annoying and patronising way of dealing with you with their automated menus. Grief is not taken seriously enough by many institutions.
By now numbness was setting in. I was no longer feeling the same degree of pain I had felt. On the iPad, I started to write Laing’s eulogy. I wanted to write it so he would still be a part of me.
The greatest sadness (and irony) of his death, not only because it was a week after we married and a week before his 57th birthday, was that we had agreed we should talk about writing our wills the weekend he died. It was another of those many tasks we kept putting off, and now it was too late.
Although I thought initially writing all this would reduce me to tears, it didn’t. I am pleased that although I did feel the waterworks were about to come on stream in full flood a few times, they didn’t. I’m not over it. I haven’t forgotten him. I’ve moved on a little bit more than I had the day before. The move from living to dead is traumatic. The move from grief is slow and erratic. Some days are excellent, others are the deepest pit of despair, but as in life, the good days (eventually) outnumber the bad. Building on those good days is not easy, but it’s worth trying.