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As we turned my Father during the night, every two hours like good nurses should, my sister and I both encouraged him to let go. His breathing was shallow, but at least not as strained as it was in the hospital. Ten, twelve, two, four, six o’clock. Every time we had to change his incontinence wear as his body was excreting fluids.

Dark, brown, smelly fluid which was pumped into his veins through the IV drip.

This morning his colour started changing to a strange yellow. Somehow I felt no desire to talk to anyone – people came and went. I got the garden service people to put his lazy-boy chair into his room next to the very wonky hospital bed. Every time we moved my Dad the whole bed went on a trip of its own, sending us trying to follow the bed whilst also trying to turn my Dad.

When the umpteenth person came in and said “Ek hoop Oom Eric word gou beter” I decided to set the record straight. Oom Eric is not going to get better. He is dying. Say goodbye. Nee jirre. I am the eternal optimist but let’s not expect a Lazarus miracle here, for goodness sake. We listened to all his favourite jazz, and then to some very peaceful meditation sounds. Sally (the dog) was by his side, I fell asleep in the reclining chair. I somehow knew (hoped) that today would be his transition. Since we got home I kept two candles burning, and a little burner with orange and lavender. Between the moving bed and my Mom trying to squeeze past my sister, we almost had an immolation scene or two, the distinct smell of burning hair filling the room when my sister bent over to kiss my Dad at one point and got too close to the candles.

My family is known for being irreverent. I woke up this morning with one of my maternal grandmother’s jokes in my head. An old man was lying on his deathbed surrounded by his children. At one point he woke up and sat straight up in his bed, saying “I smell milktart!” The oldest son went to his Mom In the kitchen telling her that his Father asked after the smell of milktart. “Tell him to keep still” she said, “the milktart is for his funeral!”. I remind my Mom and sister of the joke, we can’t stop giggling.

More visitors come and go. We decide to only let those really close to my Dad visit him. The day starts drawing to a close with school friends of my parents visiting. While they chat away, I keep vigil with my Dad. I decide to change the music to classical, when I realise that his breathing is starting to change. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Somehow I realise that the end is in sight. I call my Mom, my sister, Maritha (my Mom’s companion) and Sally (the dog) to come and join me.

It is clear that my Father is ready to transition. His breathing is shallow, a rattling in his throat. As we gather around him his breathing slowly, gently, and quietly softens. Sally licks his ears and nose as his breathing becomes more and more gentle, the pause between each breath becoming longer and longer. And the. His breathing stops. Silence. We wait for another breath, but there is none. The transition is complete. I open the windows wide to let the room fill with fresh sea air. It is done.

19h21, Friday 21 February 2020.

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