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,

eyes closed,

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.

Breath stops.

Time 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.

Five times.

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.


  1. 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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s