Bad times, not the worst of times but not good times. The commute in to work this morning was very laboured. The time wasn’t bad at all and by no means my slowest, but my heart is just not in it. I haven’t fallen out of love with cycling or become disillusioned, I’m just struggling to clear my head of the events of the past 2 days.
My grandmother, or Nan as she has always been known to me, has been ill for some time. Last September we were told it may be as little as two weeks as she had an inoperable condition and she was too weak to survive any of the normal procedures, that in themselves are no guarantee of curing her medical problems.
I have not been kidding myself but she made the end of September, then October, on to November and before we knew it she had made it to Christmas. Next up was her Birthday in mid February, none of us had been expecting this and all without any medical treatment just care to keep her comfortable and out of pain.
Early March and she made my birthday which I marked with riding over to see her. This has been an amusing point as I’m not the smallest of people at 6′ 2″ and North of 240lbs. She used to comment quietly ‘Is that really your bike as the wheels don’t look strong enough to carry you’, (oh the refreshing honesty of old age).
I had been really touched though as she insisted on writing a Birthday card for me. It really got to me when I opened it and saw her handwriting which has changed so much as she has slowly lost more and more function from her body. I had to go and see her as it was the last Birthday I would see her, (surely).
Then last Sunday she deteriorated rapidly and making it through that night looked unlikely but she soldiered on and even though I had been told I was under no obligation to visit, it was pointed out that it might be best to remember her as she was, albeit bed ridden. Plus she was effectively comatose so would she be aware of my presence?
I had been thinking and thought it best to heed my parents advice until Sunday. Whilst I was out an about two and a half hours from home I got thinking, that I should visit her, I needed to say goodbye. On the way back I called my Dad, who was with her and would be for the next few hours. He was okay and asked when I’d be there, an hour I told him. I headed straight there, I didn’t stop for a break on the way. This was not due to some feeling or premonition, it just felt right.
I arrived and it was emotional, I had a bad 5 minutes sat next to my Nan as she lay there, eyes closed, breathing away with the odd head nod. I found this strange to witness but I have been told that hearing is the last sense to go, normally, and when everything else shuts down and there is no response, people can still hear you speak.
25 minutes passed and it was time to say goodbye but just before her breathing became erratic, slow and deep then a few quick shallow breaths. Our attention had been drawn to her as my Mum had noticed she looked like she was trying to open her eyes.
Unnerved we reluctantly got up and kissed her in turn and said goodbye, leaving my Uncle to the overnight vigil, (none of her 4 children wanted her to be alone when the time came so they had been organising themselves in to shifts for the past week).
I kissed her on the right cheek and said a very underwhelming ‘Cheerio Nan’ before uttering some other words I have now forgotten. She felt so cold as I kissed her and following me was my Mum who kissed her goodbye and as she pulled away she looked very concerned and said ‘She has gone a funny colour or is that the light?’ My Dad and Uncle agreed so my Uncle checked her breathing whilst my Mum went to get the nurses.
The nurses were a few minutes as they were attending to others but in those two minutes all four of us seemed to know she had just gone. Hardly a word was uttered. The nurses came in and with one look they instinctively knew, as they have seen this many times before. The tears flowed before the calls to inform family members not present began.
The rest of the evening was a blur, I do remember it but it is not worthy of being recounted here. After being unsure of what I should do, I had the shock of seeing my Nan unable to talk like she always has done in the past to seeing her parting breath.
I must say at this point that I am not religious. I must emphasise that I had no premonitions at all, I just felt it was right. I know people who will read an awful lot in to this story and make there own assumptions and they may well be right as I accept I could be wrong with my thoughts on religion, etc., but that is what happened, that is how it is. It is easy to think it was spooky, that there are unexplained things that have happened, all I can tell you is that for as sad as seeing my Nan pass was, I do not regret being there and making my choice. I am happy I did the right thing.
So as you can imagine yesterday was a bit surreal and today I tried to inject some normality back in to my life by cycling to work. The thought was that cycling helps me think, clear my head, but this morning that has not worked and I think it is indicative of the gravity of what had happened. It is going to take more than a 50 minute commute to make sense of everything, in time I will and cycling will help me, it just might be a while.
As a final thing to say on this longer than normal post, this one is for you Nan. You were very special to me and I love you dearly. My mark of respect here is to post an image from one of my night time rides around the reservoir near where you lived, the lights reflecting in the background. I will never forget you, ever…..