“They say it’s the last song. They don’t know us, you see – it’s only the last song if we let it be”.
Death came one sunny Friday morning in May. We knew to expect it, had known ever since the diagnosis almost a year ago. A glioblastoma multiforme, stage four brain tumor, is not something you get and then live to tell the tale. Still, we hoped/believed/wanted to believe we could turn the tide. Even though it comes to visit us all sooner or later, death is an unwelcome visitor – albeit sometimes a much needed relief.
Demise is like a tsunami – a wall of water rolling on and on, unstoppable, destroying everything on its path. First the coast line, then the boulevard with those cute little restaurants, then the charming fishermen’s houses, and eventually the village square. Every structure disassembles and your grasp is slipping with each moment.
It was funny how our perception of ‘normal’ kept shifting, and how quickly that happened. Every day, something gave. Something that beforehand would make you think ‘well, at least he’s still able to do that‘ and ‘thank god things haven’t gotten that bad yet’. We kept clinging to whatever was left, while that too crumbled and disappeared into the ocean, devoured by crashing waves. Amnesia? Part of the game. Tired? Take an extra nap. Stairs too complicated? Bed in the living room. At least he still ate. Still spoke. Still went to the toilet. Still knew us. Until that too vanished, relentlessly. And we kept on moving with him, endlessly. As long as he wasn’t in pain. As long as he wasn’t in pain.
He endured it, accepted it. Seemingly without effort. His last week on earth was timeless. When every breath could be the last, you enter another dimension. You have only two wishes: for it to end quickly and mercifully, and for it to please please never ever end. Because all too soon, never follows. This incomprehensible concept that is so abstract, no matter how you try to grasp it. Death is like the universe – all around us, ever expanding, so immeasurably big. What does never even mean? Our minds cannot understand, but our heart knows all too well – and it weeps.
And yet, things happened very quickly in the end. Too quickly, almost. Like sand through our fingers, we couldn’t hold on any longer. With his heart, time stopped as well. And then… Help washing him, dressing him up, one last day at home, so many last times… And putting together a celebration worthy of who he was – honoring his life to the fullest. I sang my last song for him.
Thank you paps, my dad-in-law, papsi to my son, biggest supporter, anchor, pillar, wise council, beacon of peace. Thank you for your patience, your presence, your endless faith in everything we did. I love you. See you on the other side…
Gaston Steegmans – † 24/05/2019
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” – Kahlil Gibran