My dad died, and I saw him thirty minutes after his last breath. I touched his hair for ages, because he liked his hair played with, and I touched his earlobes, because my dad, myself, and Julia Gillard all have weird lobes, like dollar pancakes hanging off the side of our face.
I kissed his cheek, and talked to my mother, sister and daughter over our father’s body, which is nothing unusual. We often talked over his head, except this time he wasn’t breathing.
Just his face, mouth half open, as though trying to get a word in, which again is nothing unusual when in the company of the women in his family.
Sometimes he would put his hand up to speak, as though in school. Now one hand lay by his side, the other over his chest, as though giving us a silent bow before his curtain call.
There was an energy in the room that was hard to decipher. Two weeks past his death, I now look back and can only liken it to a bowl of pretty glass marbles being dropped, with them rolling and scattering across a floor, dynamic energy everywhere, then finally coming to rest, silent now but fragments of him everywhere.
All that turned and ticked over inside him had stopped. The hands were no longer moving, asking for his time, perhaps for more time.
His dog Henry sat on his bed with him, and then under it, aware, protecting, ever loyal till the end.
People came and went. Food arrived. Clothes were chosen. Laughter and tears merged in each moment. There was an endless cycle of family being aware of who needed time with him. My brother, so desperately ill sitting by Dad, talking quietly into his large lobed ears about secrets and promises and things he would do now, things he wished he had done, snapshots of love and loss.
My sister pacing, as though looking for a precious lost marble she had dropped. Me, not feeling awake, not feeling anything, not yet. It was still too fresh. I take a while to process and don’t touch me when I am marinating cos I can’t be touched, I can’t bear it, not even a bit. Let me lie in my lost marbles for a bit until I can feel them underneath me, painful and beautiful.
Death can be as powerful as birth, just a mirror, a bookend of the other end of life.
When my father was taken by the nicest undertakers in the world, one of whom my daughter said looked like he had party lolly teeth in situ, one of them said what a heartwarming moment it was to see us so connected to Dad and each other. How most people are removed from death, from each other and the denial that death is real, that it happens.
There was no chance this would happen, as we lined the driveway, giving my father the final wave that he always gave us. I touched his feet, in his good socks, as they put him inside the van, and squeezed his toes. He hated his feet being touched but too bad Dad, whatcha gonna do now?
As they drove down the street, we all waved, and said ‘Bye Pete’ in unison, laughing and crying and just past the house we heard the familiar sound of the double toot from the car horn. His signature move when he left anyone’s house.
This time he was leaving his own home. A double tooting of his own horn. A double herald to the angels he was on his way up. The sound of familiar and family.
The sound of goodbye.