Dad, Husband, Gramps & Brother.
Aged 94, my father, Geoffrey Browne died on the 14th January 2021.
It was not entirely unexpected. He was in hospital with his 3rd bout of pneumonia and we’d had the call to say that he’d contracted Covid; not a question of “if” but a question of “when”. He was old and frail and had no chance of beating the virus – I’m not sure he would have wanted too either – were it not for the Alzheimer’s continually making him forget how frail he was and how the Care Home existence was the polar opposite of what he would have wanted – he would have given up a long time ago.
Born in January 1927, my dad served his country in the Royal Navy and fought a war for us too. He was a great Dad, always there when I needed him and a tremendous support through thick and thin for my mother. He was very active, creative and a talented fixer, builder and maker with an attention to detail that I have never seen since. He single handedly built a house extension, brick by brick, layer by layer – overcoming the issue of placing the heavy RSJ beam in place by lifting it with the bricks he layed as they raised up. Seeing his mind and body slowly decline over the last 4 and a half years as he languished in a care home was heartbreaking. To me, he’s taken those 4 and a half years to die, because when he was no longer recognisable as the Dad, Husband, Gramps or Brother we once knew, he was gone from that moment on. His actual death was, in a way, a formality. A time to say “rest easy, Dad. You’re not in pain, you don’t have trouble with a foggy memory any more and now have the freedom of movement and memory”.
It was still a very emotional moment when I was told that he’d died – I’d seen him, frail and weak 24 hours before. The image of his Covid riddled body slowly succumbing to the virus is one that will stay with me for a long time. However, with death, there is a certain order of things – a formality whereby a body needs to be disposed of and our emotional journey, as a family, of saying goodbye and giving him the fitting send off he deserved. Covid restrictions are brutal at a time like this Also, as my father was not a religious man, there was some real “thinking outside the box” to be done. It was not long before I found the website of the Natural Death Centre and their information on “Family Led & DIY Funerals” changed the way we thought about my dad’s funeral forever.
I have debated long and hard about documenting such a personal time on this blog, but I have worked through all the arrangements (booking the cremation, ordering the coffin, filling out the forms – I’ve done it all!) for 11 days now and as a result, there’s less of a taboo to death & funerals and I have found so many things to be positive about and “enjoy” the experience that writing it down is the natural progression. Indeed, this has been written retrospectively – Today is the 25th January and his Celebration of Life is on the 28th and the cremation is on the 29th – I am nearly at the end of my journey and I write this and any subsequent blogs with absolute 100% clarity.