Dead flowers

The last letter

I am lying in a hospital bed and I am dying. Yesterday evening they moved me into the twilight ward. Everything is growing dim. Everything is still, quite still. Outside, no leaves upon the trees, no snowdrop blooms; the skies look grimly.

This will be my last letter.

In the last few weeks, I have had more than enough time to think about the past and to think about what I made of my life; I have tried to understand why things went wrong and why I came to give up on living. I have looked back on those happier times when my sons brought me so much pleasure and I have wondered why, one by one, they came to abandon both my wife and I. Over and over again I have retraced those earlier memories; over and over again, I have re-lived the hopes I had for my sons and for us all, as a family. I cannot deny the fact that I thought about each of my sons, every day, every single day since they were born. Perhaps I cared too much. There was nothing more important to me than my sons. I wanted to see them happy and faring well. I hope that I had made it clear to them that I would support them and never let them down.

Now, though, as I lie here dying, I am alone. I shall go to my grave not with fear or anger but with hurt and sorrow. I had hoped for some kind of happy ending. I had hoped to see my family, my sons and my grand-children united and close by – if not in body then at least in mind. But that was not to be. And worse, a kind of taut and painful distance found its way between myself and my offspring: in the last decade of my life I had less and less contact with my sons; there were fewer and fewer visits, the odd telephone call … They, my sons, seemed lost to a different world: I seemed to annoy them but I do not know why. As my isolation increased, as my powers diminished, my spirit ebbed away until the call to life deserted me. And, in the Christmas that passed two months ago, I was entirely alone. One of my sons was in Africa; another was reluctant to travel – even though he lives just two hours away; the third was in France visiting his wife’s family as he has always done for Noel. A few days later I was admitted to hospital; as I was about to be taken away I remember saying, ‘I don’t think I shall ever come home again.’

Against the backdrop of sadness my feelings are mixed. Desolation is conjoined with pride. I did my best: each of my sons surmounted their various difficulties; each had enough resources to survive – and more. Each made a difference and, in their own way, each made the world a better place.

This, though, is my winter’s tale: Time has tried me; now it bids me ‘farewell’. The frozen grip of death reaches out to me and begins to still the warm blood.

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