Rena passed away at almost fifteen minutes past midnight on Monday morning. I was lying on the floor in her hospice room as I had done for the previous seven nights. The last visitors had left only about three quarters of an hour previously. I kissed Rena and said ‘goodnight’ as usual, but I had a very strong sense that she had very little time left.
Her breathing had become even more laboured and erratic than before. For the first time I felt a touch of fear and, as my eyelids were closing I thought I heard her stop breathing; she had stopped momentarily quite a few times during Sunday evening, but then…
In an instant I knew she was gone, but time seemed to slow to a crawl and I hesitated before leaping from the floor, not wanting it to be true. At the same instant two of the hospice staff came through the door: they had been pacing up and down the corridor outside for some hours, knowing, I think, that the inevitable was coming soon. One of the staff told me in her soft and friendly Irish accent simply that ‘she has gone’. I kissed her and said goodbye from me and the boys – Marlon, Michael, Richard and Martyn.
I was asked to wait in the visitors lounge and attempted to collect my thoughts, but found I didn’t have any. My mind was blank and I felt mentally numb.
After a while the staff asked me if I wanted to go back into the room, which I did. The bed on which Rena was lying had been raised up and was now completely flat. It looked odd and strangely like an alter. She looked very peaceful and very beautiful. There was a deafening silence.
I lay down on my mattress on the floor in my usual position, facing Rena. I had been talking to here off and on through every evening for a week, fairly certain, for the first few days at least, that she could hear and understand what I was saying. Now there was just complete silence. I laid there for a while but could not sleep; I was becoming more alert and thinking of about ten things at once.
Eventually I made my way back into the lounge and sat down with a coffee, staring at the wall. At some point I felt the urge to write, and at about 3 o’clock in the morning started writing the text for an email that I would send out to family, especially those in the US and Canada who I could not easily contact in any other way. The following is exactly what was written in the early hours of the morning as I was trying to understand what had happened.
“I’m sorry to say that my beautiful wife Rena passed away in the early hours of Monday 13th July; a quarter past midnight to be precise. I was alone with her which was so appropriate as we felt alone against the world. We weren’t of course, as we discovered in the previous five days as so many people demonstrated their love for her at the Marie Curie Hospice at Hampstead.
Rena was a very strong and tenacious person, as most of you will know. I was so thankful for this aspect of her personality as it meant she was present at my birthday on 7th July and our wedding anniversary on 10th July.
I was so pleased to be able to kiss her goodbye at her last moment, and give her my love and the love of her boys. I absolutely know that she died so peacefully and with no pain or discomfort, and with no unresolved worries.
I need to return home to Devon at the earliest opportunity as I must meet with our dear friends Carmen and John Luscombe to discuss funeral arrangements. Some of you may remember them when John was the parish priest who baptised Marlon and Michael at his church in Tottenham so many years ago.
I apologise for not being available to meet each of you in turn in London, but I know that Richard willmake every effort to contact Rena’s many relatives and friends. Your help in contacting people will be very much appreciated and between us we should hopefully reach everyone who would wish to know this sad news. This is so very many people that your help will be invaluable.
Please know that Rena’s sons Michael, Richard and Martyn and myself will jointly agree the funeral arrangements in accordance with Rena’s wishes. We will endeavour to make these known to you as soon as they are finalised.
I would ask that you bear with us at this sad time, as like you we are dealing with our grief as well as doing our best to complete the numerous and often onerous tasks required of us at these times.
It would help us enormously if you would provide your contact details in writing to myself or to any of Rena’s sons at the earliest opportunity. My email address is given below.
I’d like to thank you for your thoughts, prayers and messages over the last week; they have been of tremendous help to me and I know they meant a great deal to Rena.
13th. July 2015, 4.50am”
I love you babe,