I love lists. I have a weekly To Do list – handwritten – that I happily work my way down during the week. It’s all there, in my A5 notebook, week after week. I can look back and see what’s been achieved, what’s yet to do, what keeps being carried forward to the next week, and how long I’ve been putting off doing the accounts.
This year, however, there’s been a gap in my To Do lists since the first week of January. Because my dad died; and when someone is dying, it appears that there’s both a lot to do, and absolutely nothing to do.
At the age of 91, ‘the old man’, as he affectionately called himself, was steadily becoming frail, both in body, mind and spirit. The time had come, and was acknowledged by all, including himself, and so began the longest two weeks of my life. I had read somewhere that when someone is dying, normal life needs to be put on hold. Turns out, this is absolutely true. Not only is dying a very personal process, it is also a very unpredictable one. According to the Hospice nurse I chatted with, some people will die almost as soon as the prognosis is made, some will fight and fight and appear unable to complete the final stage. There is nothing To Do except wait, and watch, and respect the process.
After he died, of course, there was a whole new list of things To Do. Funeral arrangements, financial arrangements, people to notify, a eulogy to write. I have a separate book for these To Do lists. I find a need a degree of separation, lest my life becomes consumes by the process and the practicality. Most of the things on that particular To Do list have been accomplished already with more to come as the finances and legal details conclude, but I find myself at last free enough to start to write in my own personal To Do notebook again. So far, aside from paying the Gas Bill, it remains steadfastly empty. Because it seems that what’s left to do once a life ends, is both a lot and nothing at all.
Love and peace,