Monday, 25 February 2013

Too late when they're late

Death is always a shock.

Doesn’t matter how much you expect it, doesn’t matter whether it brings relief from pain or comes as a blow from the blue, when you learn about it, it’s a surprise and too soon.

When I heard of the death of an old and dear friend today, my first thought was ‘why did I delay my plan to go and see him these last few weeks?’ Useless thought. It’s too late now. And it’s a thought I’ve had twice before.

My wife points out to me that I shouldn’t be thinking that way since we saw him just three months ago, when he was still able to leave the nursing home where he died this weekend. In limpid, mild autumn sunshine, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch with him, his wife and his eldest son. It was an afternoon of gentleness and cordiality, everyone enjoyed the company of the others, he was happy that we’d made the effort to come and see him, and we were happy to see him and to see his family.

Unfortunately, as we left I thought back to the last two occasions I’d visited a friend close to death. I hadn’t gone back to see either of them as I’d planned, and they died before I returned. I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again. And as we left the house last autumn, I told myself that I’d see him at least one more time before he went. And then I failed to do it.

Somehow, I’ve got to get over that. We exist at a frenetic pace. Most of us live far too far from our friends, from our family even, and we don’t see each other anything like often enough. And then we miss each other until it
s too late. I should blame that crazy lifestyle.

And I have to overcome my disappointment at myself. I have to remember him as he was the last day we saw him: Danielle’s right to point out that he was smiling then, and recently he was smiling much less, as decline and pain took hold. Those at least he’s free from now.

I have to console myself with that smile. I’d known him fifty years and he’d been closely enough entwined with my family to become something of a second father to me. It’s good to remember him happy.

But there is a lesson to learn: seize the moment. There may not be another one.



The grave’s a fine and private place
but none, I think, do there embrace

3 comments:

Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

My dad died suddenly at the age of 47. I was 16 at the time. You'd think I would have learned the lesson, but I, also, let a friend go before I'd had that final visit with him. I did manage to get a copy of my book to him (before I published) and he did get to critique it, which was one of his most favorite things to do. I guess I can forgive myself.

David Beeson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Beeson said...

Lovely that you got the book to him - it's wonderful that that happened. Certainly, that's the thing to hold on to... And I'm sorry about your Dad: I'm sure that's not a memory that goes.