Only minutes after I published yesterday’s post, my shaken mother-in-law phoned us with sad family news.
My wife’s uncle-in-law, who was an inspiration for a gregarious, friendly Irish tourist in Rome in Distances, died at home in London early Sunday morning.
He was 85. He had lived in England for over sixty years, and married and raised a family here. Yet to the very end he sounded as if he had just arrived from across the Irish Sea.
In some shock, we drove down to see his widow and his son. While my wife was downstairs cooking something for her aunt, who hadn’t eaten properly all day and was receiving other relations, their son (who is about my age) and I had a private chat in the bedroom where he was sitting with his father’s body, which was in the bed. His mum had raised the alarm when she could not wake him.
He said his dad, who had been feeling increasingly unwell for about two weeks, apparently had some sort of “heart failure” in his sleep. The paramedics who responded within minutes discovered his heart had stopped completely, moved him to the floor and worked at him, but were unable to restart it. After, with the assistance of a police officer, the son lifted his deceased father and put him back in the bed, where he would remain until the funeral home came for him.
Having lost my mother less than a year ago, I could think only to sit and listen to his son (who was an usher at our wedding) talk and to commiserate with him in any way possible. We always hope we might find soothing words to say in that situation. In reality, though, we all know there are really no words that can possibly make that awful moment any better.