We went up to Harrogate to visit my brother in law, he'd been ill for a while. We went up to his house sitting amongst the sheep strewn fields of Ripley, the lights were on, cosy and warm when we arrived. It's full of life's adventures to Australia, Tenerife, Spain. Photographs of holidays and grandchildren all over the walls next to antique porcelain and tribal figures in black wood with scary hair.
Then you hear it, the gentle click and sigh of the machine that is helping him breathe. A feint smell of medicine in the air. The wheelchair by the door, opened by the haunted faces of his wife and son who have spent the night awake with him as he cried out for help. Sometimes lucid, sometimes not.Sometimes funny, sometimes demanding.
My husband sat on the floor holding his brothers hand, not knowing what to say. I felt I didn't belong. An outsider, a Southerner in a close Northern family, so I didn't intrude on the few moments left to them. I was incredibly sad, I liked my brother in law, he was generous, kind and funny. He helped others even when he was very ill himself. He didn't let on as he would have said. He had even left his body to Leeds Hospital University. Generous to the last.
We left to meet our friends for lunch and get my brother in law a Cafe Nero Cappucino on the way back. He said he really fancied it, even gave orders that he didn't want Starbucks!
By the time we got back the family were frantically calling the NHS Pallative care nurse for help. She said she couldn't come she stopped work at 3.00. It was 2 o'clock. My brother in law was struggling to breathe, the family gave him some medicine and he calmed down enough to drink a couple of sips of his coffee and drink iced water. They phoned the NHS again and got the call centre who said they'd send someone.
I waited watching for any car coming up the hill, that might have a nurse in it. "She's here."
I called opening the door. My sister in law raced past me.
"You're too late, he's gone." She shouted angrily, "He died crying for help."