My father was a Royal Marine Commando. He took part in the D-Day landings. He landed at Sword Beach and made his way to Pegasus Bridge to support the Paratroopers there.
He died on Remembrance Sunday 2011
My brother comes to me,
Trying to catch sleep in the family room.
“Andy, the nurse says it’s time.”
I walk with him to the bed,
part the green curtains,
sit next to my mother who is crying
next to my father who is lying,
breathing so lightly.
A mere hiss.
We sit together and watch his chest
rise and fall
slowly and more slowly
smaller and smaller
less and less.
Until movement stops.
For a moment the whole universe is a breath held in silence.
Then my mother’s sob rends the air,
“He’s gone. What am I going to do?”
None of us have an answer worth saying
and the question hangs in the silence.
Then, without warning, my father’s body lurches,
gulps air back into itself,
and the chest’s rise and fall recommences.
The pacemaker, fitted five years ago,
Refuses to let my father leave his watch.
Five times we watch his breath stop.
Each time a longer wait
Until the piece of metal in his heart
Shocks him back to us.
Each time a little less of a shock than the last.
Each time a little more ridiculous
Till, when he finally leaves us,
We are all laughing
At the absurdity of the situation.
A man whose poor timekeeping was notorious,
For whom punctuality was an impossibility,
Couldn’t even be on time for his own death.
How like my father to try to protect us,
To try and make it easy for us all.
Every Remembrance Day I think of George Hammond, not my grandfather but my grandmother’s husband, who died lifesaving his shipmates in 1942 when his ship, HMS Blean, was torpedoed in The Mediterranean. He was awarded the DSM posthumously. And I think of Peter Franklin, my mother’s first husband, a pilot and navigator whose plane, a bomber, did not return from a WW2 mission. The world we have owes such as these, and your father Andy, everything
That’s a wonderful poem Andy. It should be published somewhere.
yes, lovely. Your father sounds like he was a wonderful man.