Companioning Uncle Bob

Charles Cowling

Companioning Uncle Bob

I gave myself the job, the privilege it turned out,

of enabling my Uncle Bob

to spend his last few months at home.

Death was not new to me, but dying was.

I was no nurse, just a woman thankful

to this dear old man for giving me family

when I needed it.

 

He let me be his companion,

but never his slave, most offers of help refused.

With a deep sense of duty

he would wash, shave and dress

his 90 year-old body if it took him three hours to complete.

When his afternoons napped in a sunny chair

he’d be cross if I didn’t keep waking him.

And any suggestion he might stay in his bathrobe,

or maybe even in bed,

was met with perplexed disbelief.

 

When finally one day he did stay in bed,

the day after he couldn’t believe it

and battled fatigue to return

to his normal regime.

Come five o’clock though,

he wanted to go to his bed,

but no matter how hard he tried

he could not will himself to stand up.

To my relief my strong son came visiting,

scooped him up gently

and carried him off to his bed.

 

And there he stayed.

 

Next day as we sat with our cuppas

he suddenly asked would I fight on or give up.

‘If I were in your shoes I’d give up,’ I declared,

quite sure of my answer after watching for weeks.

‘But why?’ he asked.

‘Because life is too much of a struggle,’ I said.

‘It’s true there’s not much pleasure left,’

he said slowly– ‘I enjoy my cup of tea…

How would you give up?’ he then asked.

I would just lie down and wait for death

to come and take me away,’ I replied.

‘Is it comfortable?’ he asked.

‘You mean dying?  Is dying comfortable?  Oh I have no doubt;

in fact I think it’s much better than comfortable.

I think it’s like walking into the sunshine.’

 

There are things one says sometimes,

with complete conviction,

which simply turn up to be said.

 

From then on my uncle was mostly asleep.

Next day I sat with him, drinking a cuppa,

and although I looked and looked at his body in the bed

I could not see or feel my Uncle Bob.

That afternoon he took his last good breath,

and as far as I can know,

walked off into the sunshine.

Margie McCallum

 

To order copies of the CD “When Death Comes Close” please contact Sarah Williams:

email: info@musedaypublications.co.uk phone: 01373 300 433

mobile: 07788 677 608

or ask your local bookshop to order it:  ISBN 978-0-9567149-0-9

 


 

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Jon Underwood
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Jon Underwood

I love these poems. Thank you.

Jon

gloria mundi
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Maybe we need a Margie McCallum on duty in every hospital, to help people past the point at which they feel it’s better to prolong a life come what may, and towards a point where they are better ready to accept a death. Years ago, I had an elderly cousin much removed, a devout RC, and last time I visited him he said to me “Can’t see much point in it all now.” I think I did OK, but, especially since our belief systems were such a long way apart,I didn’t quite know what to say to him. As Dylan… Read more »