Today is the first anniversary of my uncle Andrew’s death. Here is that lovely photograph of him that R took at my cousin Jenny’s wedding.
We were down in Suffolk when it happened and whilst Andrew here, I didn’t write much about that strange day.
We went down to Suffolk on the Tuesday. There was no particular reason why we visited at that time. Mum had the day off on the Thursday and she was going to drive us to Ipswich to see Granny Kelly, who was very ill in hospital. Her life wasn’t in direct danger, but she had had all sorts of problems which meant that effectively she’d lost the skin from her calf muscles. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she had got into quite a state trying to manage at home, lost a lot of weight and was now suffering from jaundice.
Andrew was in also hospital but this was neither unusual or worrying. In this case he had an impacted bowel. The way he was, Andrew wouldn’t have complained of being constipated and even having pain until it was severe enough for medical intervention. Andrew had been very distressed and disorientated on the ward, which had made Dad a little nervous. Trouble with Andrew and his distress was that as well as being upsetting to see him upset, people who didn’t know him could be quite frightened. And indeed, Andrew would hurt someone who he thought was going to hurt him.
Anyway, the family agreed that Granny was not to know about this. And indeed, there was really no point in mentioning the fact that Andrew was in hospital at all; he would be out by the weekend and then we could mention it. We thought she might not have long for this world and just a little bit of worry could send her over. Not for the first time in her life, the family underestimated its matriarch.
And it all went wrong with Andrew. Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that lives in the gut and can grow out of control when the natural flora is unbalanced. Clearing out an impacted bowel can do it. Really simple stuff. By the time Thursday arrived, we knew he was on his way out.
The fact that [...], Mum and I were on our way to visit Granny when we heard he had died; the fact that I was in Suffolk and Mum had the day off were just some of the many coincidences which meant that within an hour of Andrew's death, Granny was surrounded by her family.
And Granny, tiny and slightly yellow at the time, was amazing. This is a lady who is severely ill herself, and has just discovered that her youngest and most vulnerable child (who was always a child, in many ways) has died of a short illness she never even knew about. Within five minutes of our arrival at the hospital she said to me, “When Andrew was twenty-four, he had a kidney infection and I prepared myself for his death then. So as far as I am concerned, every year since then has been a blessing. I have had twenty-four years with him that I didn’t expect to have.”
Later when we gathered in the family room, sitting in the centre of the room in a horrid hospital wheelchair and a nightdress that would have seen better days even if it wasn’t two sizes too big for her, she addressed the family. She questioned my Dad and uncles about the important points; had he been in pain? Were you there? They didn’t need to explain the fact that they hadn’t told her, “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it if you had,” she said. Which, of course, is true.
Then she said, “I have seen the end of him. I was always concerned about what would happen to him in the future, but now I know that he had a swift and peaceful end with his family close by.”
My Granny is an incredibly woman. A year later, and she is much better. She walks with a stick now and has had a stair-lift installed; two years ago, she had no mobility issue at all, she claimed to have entered her eighties with no arthritis whatsoever. I actually doubt this assertion, but certainly she’d never had anything to complain of. But she’s getting about and doing her own shopping and everything. I honestly didn’t think she would be able to go home again, let alone live independently; generally folks that age who get sick don't get better.
Hmm, don't mean to suggest her good health is some sort of moral achievement, but she did actively hold on. She held on to make R&A's wedding in August. Now she's knitting blankets for her first great grandchild.
I find it very difficult to remember that Andrew is gone. I don’t miss him on a regular basis because I would only have seen him at family occasions. But then he is missing. Well, I wrote last year about what he meant to us.