Of course, I didn’t know this was the day you were going to die. In the morning, I could see your spirit trying to leave your body. Your face would turn deathly pale, almost grey and then you would grimace with effort and the life force would seem to come back into your face.
I had read advice around people telling their dying loved one that it’s ok for them to die, that it helps to tell them that we will be ok without them. I sat on the end of your bed, with my hand on your leg. “I know you’re committed to getting well.” I say, “But I want you to know that if you don’t make it, if you do need to die, that we’ll be ok.”. You look at me suspiciously. “I’m not going to die.” you say, “I’m going to get better. I want to travel with you and the kids.”. “I know” I say. “And we want that too. And I want you to know that if you can’t make it, we’ll be ok. We can manage. We don’t want you to die, but if you don’t make it, please don’t worry about us. I can manage.”. “I understand your meaning.” you say and turn away.
I’m in the other room and I hear a bang. I run in. You had tried to pick up your smoothie and dropped it and it had sprayed everywhere. You’re so weak. “Don’t worry.” I say. I clean it up. “Can I have another smoothie” you say barely able to speak, “And no banana, not so sweet. I need to cure my candida”.
I’m in the kitchen, angrily blending a smoothie – angry because you can’t accept that you’re dying. Angry that I have to keep pretending that you’re going to make it when I know that you aren’t. Angry that we can’t say goodbye properly. Angry that I have to be the strong one when you’re the one that’s leaving, that’s going to a better place. You weren’t meant to leave me. The psychic had told us in 1992 that you would live until you were 92 (she knew I was afraid you would die and leave me). My friend Meg is with me in the kitchen. Her husband died of cancer a few years ago. “You have to tell him that Shafique is dead.” she says “It will help him to let go. I’ll come in with you.”
Shafique, your best friend, had suddenly died of a heart attack two days before. We hadn’t told you because you were so weak. Meg and I walk into your bedroom. I sit on the chair by your bed. Meg sits on the end of your bed. “Hey mate”, she says. Meg is one of the very few who is allowed to visit, allowed to see you in your weakened emaciated state. “Kosuke, I have something to tell you” I say. And I tell you the story of Shafique’s passing. “Shafique” you say, and you turn your face to the wall. You were always so private in your grieving. You start to let go after that.
Later, I ask if I can bring the kids in. They come in and hug you one by one. Your eyes are shining with love. You haven’t said anything since I told you about Shafique. You manage to say “I love you” to each child. After they leave the room, you slip into a kind of slumber. You’ve finally surrendered to your dying process.
Vincent asks if he can come and spend some time with us. You let him in recently and he’s been visiting with you. Your eyes are closed and you’re breathing. You don’t seem to be asleep but you’re not awake either. I wonder if you were conscious and could hear what we were talking about. Vincent stays for a couple of hours. I can’t remember what we talked about now, but I think I told him lots of stories of your life. Eventually he leaves.
I notice that you’re sweating. I pull your sweater off over your head. You remain in your sleeping state. As I pull off your sweater, I notice the braid around your wrist has broken and comes off with the jumper. I had braided this bracelet for you – rainbow colours, 7 threads of cotton. I had looked up how to do a 7-strand braid. I braided it in Sydney while I was on the one-week Embodying NVC retreat. The theme had been intimacy and I had focused on my relationship with you and braided the bracelet in the evenings in my room. When I came back, I tied it on your wrist and told you all the things I appreciated about you. You held my hands and asked me to listen while you told me everything you appreciated about me. You said you would never take the braid off – that you would wear it until it fell off. How ironic that it fell off as you were dying. I had been planning to do a cutting the ties ritual with a red thread to help you let go. I realised I now didn’t need to. The threads had broken by themselves and you were letting go.
Deb, Micah, Luca and Jazz arrive. We all hang in your room for a while. The kids play a board game, and do some drawing. Kacey comes. The others go into the living room. It’s just me and Kacey and the kids. Then your sister rings. I go into the hallway. I’m explaining how you are. Kacey comes and says “You’d better come in. His breathing’s changed. He seems restless. He needs you there”. I tell Michiko what’s happening. I tell her that you can’t speak, but to please speak to you. I put her on speaker phone and hold the phone out. She calls your name a couple of times and then she starts singing. It’s the Japanese national anthem. Later she tells me that’s all she could think of at the time, but when I look up the words, I think how perfect it was that she sang that to you.
May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the tiny pebbles
Grow into massive boulders
Lush with moss
And as she sings these words to you, you gently breathe your last breath.