I was shocked to hear your voice this morning and then to see your face at the window as you threw down the key for me to let myself in. Just three weeks ago we had been walking in your favourite bit of Dartmoor, you, me and your Labrador. A stormy day, sky full of drama we strode out. We walked and talked, mostly you talking. A companionable walk, easy given how little we really know each other. You ran the local shop til the end of last year. Brief chats over years when I popped in to get the odd things for Dad.
Your diagnosis of cancer some 14 months ago came with an estimated 6 to 18 months life expectancy. Bowel cancer caught just too late. So you went about settling your affairs, telling family and friends, selling the shop, sorting executors and wading through all the accumulated possessions of a lifetime, a lifetime of only 62 years.
As the shop closed you gave me contact details so I did get in touch, to see how things were. Cups of coffee out at some different places, the opportunity for you to talk about things you couldn’t with family or close friends – like the music you want for your funeral.
And one day you suggested a walk on the moors. So we did and it was lovely. I took photos of you with your dog, careful not to show how gaunt you already were by then. A man, his dog and one of his favourite walks.
Just three weeks later, some texts exchanged in between, I heard and saw you today. You’re now much closer to your end. Frail, gaunt, not able keep food down, trousers flapping held up by braces, your voice with much less power. We sat in your smoky flat and you talked about knowing “it’s the end game now” ( your words). In two weeks time you are planning to move to your sister’s to spend your final time being cared for by her. I hope to see you in 11 days time when I am back down but today it feels quite possible that I may not.
I feel so sad about the opportunities you won’t have, the life you won’t be able to lead and I feel sad for those who have loved you for so long – family and close long term friends. I will be sad at your passing. It’s been a pleasure though knowing you and an honour you felt able to talk with me about things you couldn’t with others. I hope that helped.