Today is the first anniversary of his death in Broadgreen hospital. he had slipped away in the early hours while sedated following breathing difficulties after his heart bypass operation the week before. Monika rang me about 6 am, as I was meant to be going to see him that night. She gave me the news in disbelief: everyone had been convinced that the heart operation would bring him back to his former vigour, but things had started going wrong when he developed fluid on his lungs. I was lucky enough to have been one of the last people to see him before he was sedated. This is the poem I wrote about that visit:
I trace your steps
from hospital car park
in warm evening sun
impatient to see you.
A machine helps me find
a path to you through grey
shiny corridors, up stairs
and over bridges, through
protocols and passwords,
hand gels to sanctify me,
like holy water in church,
before I can touch you.
I have to ask where you are.
The medics have claimed you
though I’m allowed
to squiggle on to a high stool.
We think this is all temporary,
that soon we’ll have you home,
a new man. We’ve plans for you.
You say it’s kind of me to come.
As if I could stay away. You know
I love you. You introduce me
to your favourite nurse, the one
with the film star eyes. Tell her
‘This is my friend Ange, a poet too.’
Not a title to be claimed for oneself,
but you gave it freely, a last bequest
in your final days of life.
It was really hard to leave him. No-one came to say I had to go but visiting time was supposed to end at 8pm. I hung on as long as I could. I couldn’t get past all the tubes and supports to hug him, so had to be content with kissing his hand. We had not found it hard to talk but our conversation was slower than usual, punctuated by Matt’s needs for nurses’ attention, but we had said a lot with our eyes. We stayed connected in this way until I left the ward. It was the last time I saw him.