October 13th, 2019
The day the seas stood still.
It was a day unlike any other, Or so it seemed. I had not yet woken and was dreading the inevitable onslaught of customers that I’d have to face in my working career as a sales consultant. The day before I had been feeling unwell, something just didn’t feel right within me. I had planned on calling in sick at work on October 5th, 2019 but an unexpected phone call would change my plans entirely. The following 8 days would be engraved on my mind for many years to come as the days of hope, tears, and loss.
My alarm had not gone off yet, but I was awoken to a call from my mum.
“I’ll call her back when I wake up” I thought to myself as I slumped back down to catch a few more minutes of precious sleep. The phone rang once more. “Must be important?” I thought as I reached for my phone and tapped to answer.
Hysterical crying. “Matt?” … I answered quickly, “What’s wrong?” … The voice on the other end of the telephone retched as they tried to get their words out clearly. “Its Grandad, He had a stroke last night. He’s at the hospital now. Nan is with him”.
“Okay”, I said, not really understanding what was being said to me. My partner sat bolt upright in bed looking at me with tears in her eyes. “That’s serious” she whispered to me.
The voice on the phone began, “I just wanted to let you know, Wanted to keep you in the picture. I’ll text you if anything changes”
I hung up the telephone and immediately began to cry. Hysterically. Uncontrollable tears as a wave of fear came about me as the realization of what was told to me became clear as day in my head.
I’ve got to go down, I said to my partner.
Back Story: I live in the East Midlands with my partner and 2 children, but originally I am from a small seaside town in Essex. My family all live there still and the journey down takes be on average 4 hours each way. Not a long journey, but very expensive especially as we do not have a car.
I ran downstairs and took out two cigarettes from my rolling tin. I sat in the garden and smoked one. I don’t know what it is about a stressful situation, but I always end up smoking 2 Cigarettes in one sitting. I called my boss and told him the news I had just received, Explained that I would need to take some time off of work to travel back to my home town to be with my family. He was very understanding and said, “Take as long as you need, Keep me updated”.
I don’t know what it was. A stroke isn’t always life-threatening and in many cases the patient recovers and will go on to live a normal life, but something was telling me that I needed to travel down because if the worst did happen, I would regret not going.
So that’s exactly what I did, I booked a train ticket and I got on the next train.
I didn’t see my Grandad in hospital on the day of traveling because my Mum and Nan who had been there all day had ensured he was comfortable and decided to come back home to get some rest. Unbeknownst to us, my Nan would not leave the hospital for the next 8 days.
I went to see my Nan at her home, made her a cup of tea and we chatted for about an hour about the events that lead to my Grandad being taken in with a stroke. We laughed, we cried and we planned to meet the next day to be with Grandad in hospital.
I was incredibly nervous on the car ride to the hospital, I’d never known my Grandad to be anything but strong. A big man with muscular arms always had a tan and would be wearing shorts after not long getting in from his allotment. This was the image I had of my Grandad the entire way and what I saw when I entered his ward knocked me for six.
He was laying in the hospital bed, one side of his face had dropped as is common in most cases of a stroke, he was hooked up to an I.V Drip and although he seemed as though he was conscious, He could not communicate with us at all. I walked to his bedside. Hesitant at first because I was riddled with fear. I did not fear my Grandad, not in the slightest. he was the most kindhearted man I have ever known. No, it was fear that the man I saw before me would not recognize me as I stood at his bedside.
I held his hand and looked at him. He looked back and gave me a knowing nod. He knew it was me, he just couldn’t say hello. I immediately started to cry, As I mentioned before, I have never known my Grandad to be anything but strong so seeing him this way was the hardest thing I had ever done up until that point.
We spent a few hours in Grandad’s ward. Laughing, retelling old stories and generally trying to engage my Grandad. It was lovely. He reached for us, He laughed He was there … My Grandad.
That night I and Mum went back home. I rested up and repeated the journey back to the hospital on Monday morning.
This is the day the tears started. Not long after arriving into the ward my Grandad started to breathe a little differently to how he had previously. To cut a long story short, my Grandad had a heart attack and was taken down to be scanned and have various tests performed. There was a period of time where we had no idea what was happening but as a family, we stayed united in the hope that it was a momentary blip.
The doctors arrive, a consultant in charge of my Grandads care. He took us into a room and prepared us for the eventuality that my Grandad might not survive. Horror. Fear. Anger. Sadness. My Mum, Auntie, and my Nan were together. Crying our eyes out because just 24 hours prior, he seemed to be responding to us with the hope that things would get better. He told us that he had a severe infection within his lungs and as one last attempt they would prescribe him with the strongest Anti-Biotics they had in the hospital. My Auntie and I must have gone through about 40 Cigarettes between us in the time we were told this and the events that followed the next day.
Having slept in the hospital that night, because of the looming prospect of my Grandads departure we were all feeling a little fragile. The confusion was the emotion of the hour and we needed to hear some positive news. Thankfully the consultant that had spoken to us just 24 hours prior had news that my Grandad was responding to the Anti-Biotics that they were feeding him. We had hope, once more. The rest of the day there was a lot of waiting. But we had hope and that is what kept us going. We did go home that night, With the news being mostly positive that day we decided it would be a good idea to go home, get some rest and return the following morning.
The day the tides turned.
Having been reeling from the positive news of the previous day we were in pretty good spirits, in-fact we were all talking to Grandad in a manner that indicated he would soon be out of the water and back with us on dry land. This feeling did not last long.
My Grandad had many complications. The foremost problem that the hospital had to deal with was the stroke. Secondly, he had developed an infection in his lung which is what the Anti-Biotics were prescribed for. At around 11 am that day we received the news that his kidneys were also failing. That feeling again. Horror. Anger. Sadness.
Now, I can’t describe how much of an amazing job the hospital staff did considering the circumstances. They came into his (Now private) room, changed his sheets and turned him every couple of hours to ensure he was as comfortable as he could have been. After being told that his kidneys were failing it was a waiting game again. We had to wait until a consultant could come around to tell us what the options were and what could be done to help him.
3 PM (Ish)
We are all called into a private room again, by a consultant I had not previously seen (The consultant dealing with the stroke). He told us that earlier in the day, they had taken my Grandad for a vascular scan to determine where in his body the blood clot had originated. (from my understanding a stroke is caused in many cased my a clot within the body which as a result starves the brain of blood and oxygen and causes a stroke to occur.)
They had found the blood clot, in his left leg.
The options from here were next to nill. They COULD potentially operate on him and remove the leg and therefore remove the blood clot but as previously mentioned there were many complications with my Grandads health. THAT, plus the failing kidneys and the lung infection all together meant treating one problem (Dialysis for the kidney infection and Surgery for the leg) it meant his chances of survival were the lowest they possibly could be.
This is when they said the words I will never forget.
End of life care includes palliative care. If you have an illness that cannot be cured, palliative care makes you as comfortable as possible, by managing your pain and other distressing symptoms.
So there was that feeling again, Fear. I was going to lose my Grandad. The man I had looked up to ever since I could remember. He was going to die and there was nothing I nor anyone else could do to stop it.
The following 36 hours where a whirlwind of emotion, none of us had slept properly. Catching a few Z’s where we could but ultimately we were waiting. As bad as it sounds and I hate how this looks even writing this, but we were waiting for my Grandad to die. It was the worst experience of my life. Going from the strongest man I know to being bedridden with no chance to ever walk again. Never tell us he loved us. Never share a kiss with his wife. It was horrible.
On the evening of Saturday 12th, we all managed to get some sleep. I had found a pull out bed in a room not too far from Grandads room, My mum was on the hospital camp bed and My Nan and Auntie and made up a bed in the ward where my Grandad was being looked after. I can’t believe I managed to fall asleep. But so quickly as I had fallen asleep on Saturday, I was awoken on Sunday Morning by my auntie who tells me “Its time”.
I rush to the ward, I stand by my Grandad’s bedside. his breathing now had gotten very slow. We each held his hands and in what seemed like seconds. He was gone. His breathing stopped and my world fell apart all around me.
I had never known death, let alone known someone I was immensely close to dying before my eyes with no way of stopping what was unfolding before me. I was broken.
I was overcome with emotion, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I ran out of the hospital and sat outside for what must have been half an hour sobbing my heart out. I texted my partner who I’d been in contact with the entire time and I let my sisters know what had happened.
That day. Was the hardest day I had ever experienced. It is a day I relive in my mind every single time I look back and it is a day I will not forget any time soon.
It had been almost a month since my Grandad had passed away, I had traveled back home 200 miles from my family and had resumed a normal life. I went back to work and I got on with things as I usually would as I knew that the funeral would soon be here on November 12th. I and my partner traveled down the Monday night before the funeral. We stayed with my mum and we looked over the order of service. Seeing the pictures of my Grandad and knowing he wasn’t round the corner really hit me. The funeral came and I had been asked to give a speech in honor of my Grandad.
This again was a hard point in my life, public speaking I have never been good at but for him. I would do it.
After the funeral my Nan sat me down and handed me a small box, inside was A St Christopher that my Nan had given him as an engagement present 56 years ago. He had never taken it off, not once. It now takes pride of place inside a memory box alongside a pocket watch he had received from my Nans father on their wedding day. This watch which is now over 100 years old (and still working) are some of the things left to me by my Grandad and are treasures I will keep until my time comes when I will pass them down to my Grandchildren.
I wrote a speech that I read to the attendees of my Grandads funeral, that I’d like to share with you now.
I always remember growing up my Grandad loved to fish. I was lucky enough to take part in his hobby and from a really young age, I have memories of fishing with him on many occasions.
We would spend hours by the lake, catching fish and eating junk food. He’d always take me to this little sandwich shop on Old road and we’d get a sandwich for the day and plenty of other treats.
Those are memories I will always cherish.
Me and my sister Lauren would often visit him at his allotment which was right near our school. So Our mum would take us after school sometimes and we’d see how he grew the vegetables that we would end up consuming for many years to come.
His pumpkins where fantastic and my wonderful nan would make my most favorite soup in the world from them which to this day I look forward to every time I visit.
My family has always been close. Mad as a box of frogs but that’s just how we liked it.
My grandad would always say to me “You don’t have to be crazy to be in this family, but it doesn’t half help”
He was always funny and that’s something I’ll miss the most.
My dad was my hero ..whenever I needed help he would be there toolbox and saws at hand ..he taught me so much from practical things craftwork DIY and he and mum taught us the rights and wrongs of the world which has made me the woman I am today.
Your the only Grandad I have ever known and what an amazing one u were !! I remember going to the park as kids you would push me and Matt on the swings and always joke that we would go over the top if we looked back, well now it’s only memories of you we have to look back on… and I will cherish every one of them,
Thank you for being the best Grandad anyone could ever wish for, I love you!
We spent many amazing times together, like last Christmas and many times before that. We cherished every moment and will always have fond memories to look back on. We love you grandad.
We are all very thankful to my Grandad for the love and the memories he bought us and he will always hold a special place in our hearts.
So Grandad, I speak for all of us when I say thank you.
I’d like to finish this up with a poem.
Our Grandad kept a garden,
A garden of the heart;
He planted all the good things,
That gave our lives their start.
He turned us to the sunshine,
And encouraged us to dream:
Fostering and nurturing the seeds of self-esteem.
And then the winds and rain came,
He protected us enough;
But not too much because he knew
We would stand up strong and tough.
His constant good example,
Always taught us right from wrong;
Markers for our pathway that will last
a lifetime long.
We are our Grandads garden,
We are his legacy.
Losing someone you love is never easy, This was the first loss I had ever had to deal with and It had changed my way of looking at the world entirely. I now see the world in a much more positive light, the impact you have on others no matter how small it may seem to you can be the driving force behind their entire life, My Grandad was my hero and although he had many hardships in his own life. He built a legacy that lives on in all of us.
From a young age he joined the fishing fleet and discovered his love for the sport, he later joined the merchant navy and served with them for 5 years, it is this that the post is titled after as he loved the sea, loved to travel and on the day he died the world lost a keen fisherman, former member of the Merchant Navy and a proud serving member of the Royal Airforce.
His love lives on in my Nan who is so very strong, in his daughters (Mum and Auntie) and in his Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren.
I’d like to thank you for reading this post, It is a very hard topic for me to write about but in a way its therapy to write down my thoughts and feelings.
Thank you x