The Last Day

There is a cherry tree that stands in the sunken garden of the military academy so that as you walk past the canopy is there: level with you, and all those glimmering fruits seem to shine like pearls of dragon’s blood.

I picked a handful of the sun kissed fruits for him, and placed them in his lap  – or where his lap would have been if he was well and whole.

There is a garden around the old hospital museum, a tiny little arboretum. Firs and larches sit beside a plane tree, a venerable oak, an elegant green sycamore. The lawn is full of the wild wheat that the Romans allowed to conquer this empire, millennia before.

He took a two ears of the green wheat and placed one in my pants cuff, the other under his hospital gown, to feel them scurry and climb our clothes as we walked through that tiny garden.

There is a curtain of ivy that hangs like a proscenium over the old city wall, high overhead. Walk into the cool space and you are greeted by the gravestones torn from the Jewish cemetery, and now placed here as tenderly as possible, vulnerability embedded in this ancient symbol of might and exclusion.

He slept in his chair in the shade of the wall and ivy, and I watched him and thought about how little he seemed now.

The park by the Wasserturm is swathed in grass that looks like a mermaids hair shimmering in the summer light. A willow hangs like a cloud of sorrow over the little pond, and upon it’s roots a thousand copper and green beetles cluster frenetically, antenna lifted to the azure heavens.

He sits and watches and all the sadness I feel is echoed in his face, sadness for a world so beautiful he is losing the capacity to see, touch, taste and feel.

There was a limit to how long I could stay. Family on the other side of the world, newborn son and wife, money running out, national service looming, hospital visiting hours: all these things gnawing away

There was a limit to how long he could stay. The relentless pull of little tablets that sat flatly in a small paper cup, dragged him into insensible numbness; the way a footprint washes away gradually on the shoreline. And a deeper undertow of his life ticking away before us, he diminished daily, he left a mark in his increasing absence, like the mark on a wall when a picture is removed.

The last day

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