Death In The Family

He died on 1st October 2016 exactly 98 years and six months after he was born on 31st March 1918, 10 days after the German Spring Offensive had started on 21st March 1918 and they were hammering at the gates of Amiens demanding to be let in.  Actions on that 31st March could be classed as the catalyst that started the end of the Great War.  The Germans ran out of steam, munitions, fuel, men, aircraft and all the other apparatus that make for a successful military victory.  They made their first backward step and never stop back-pedaling until 32 weeks later and after much unnecessary killing, they signed the Armistice Agreement with the Allied Powers.

I would like to think that my father’s premature appearance into this world, all 2lb 2oz of him, scared the bejasus out of those confident German soldiers and sent them scuttling back from whence they came in relatively quick time.

That was the first time he had put the fear of God into the those Frankish men, the second was 22 years later, fresh out of his electronic engineering apprenticeship at Metropolitan Vickers in Trafford Park in Manchester, where he helped in the development of a radar system used in the home defence of the UK.

In a way I was glad to see him die, his quality of life was non-existent.  For at least three months before his death he could neither see, speak, hear, stand and was incontinent.  He epitomised living death.

Our relationship was never easy.  He came from a generation that had been moulded into privation with the effects of the Great War and the hardships of WW2 and its aftermath.  A whole generation chiselled into conformity, lateral thinking not being part of the equation.  We, the original baby boomers, had not been enchained.  We had obviously been weaned on deprivation in the 1950s but we had been baptised in the “They have never had it so good” 1960s.  We were free spirits not encumbered by class, creed or civic need.  We changed employment on a whim, we travelled, we were never reined in.  My father could not understand my dilletantish outlook on life and I was not willing to be restrained by his conservatism.  What I think we both had  when it came to “Hey lads Hey” was an innate respect for each other.  There are numerous examples throughout our lives but this is not the place for them.

Early on the 17th October I boarded a plane at Dublin Airport;  in England after death, the authorities like to linger over cadavers before allowing release, because it gives work to so many people.  Here in Ireland, as in Jewland and Muslimland, they like to dispose of deadness quickly.  I was picked up by Daughter 3 as rush hour was biting on Princess Parkway and after a much needed breakfast, met my younger brother Michael,  signed my name on some legal documents and spent the next few hours in reflective idleness, thinking of things yet to come.

We arrived at the Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home on Plymouth Grove at 4.30pm, the place where my father comfortably spent the last few years of his life, in “his silent period” the priest said in his later panygeric.  I realised the priest did not know him that well, as my father was never one to say too much.  We were there for the simple ceremony of receiving his body into church.  In this case the spacious chapel where the whole panopoly of religious events are displayed  for the aging population of the Home on a daily basis by the three retired clerics who are resident there.  It strikes me that with the withdrawal of religion from most people’s lives, this home as pleasant as it is, is not just in the dying business but is also a dying business structure.  I noticed immediately the name of one of my nemeses on the wall.  The so called Bishop Geoffrey Burke’s name, who it seems opened the chapel in 1997, was displayed on a plaque on the wall at the side of the altar.  What he knew and hid from the people of the Salford Diocese regarding the nefarious practises of  Thomas Duggan of St Bede’s College in Manchester, does not bear thinking about.

Assembled outside the entrance to the Home were old friends and not so friendly people, relatives I had not seen in ages and immediate family, some not looking their best, trying to ignore me in their own special and inimitable way.  There were also faces I could not put a name to but faces none the less.  I was a nominated pallbearer along with my brother Michael, a cousin, two nephews and an old work mate I’d known for 65 years, who stepped in when my other brother declined because of his declining physical state.  I was surprised how light the coffin and its contents were but I had seen my father’s emaciated state only weeks before and should have realised.

We delivered the coffin to the altar and went through the rigmarole of the Catholic service delivered by a decent,  if physically senile priest who looked as though he had just returned from a few weeks in a very warm climate.  The service was followed by unfathomable incantations from the in-house nunnery which lasted far longer than was decent.  It was over for the day and we stepped out into sunshine and I noticed how the assembled I knew were stepping over each other to remain at least arm’s length away to avoid shaking hands.  Myself and daughter 3 skedaddled back to her house and had a glass or two of wine to contemplate on proceedings and prepare ourselves for the ordeal of the morrow.

Up early and a delicious Jewish breakfast of eggs, vegetables and spices cooked by the master of the house and we were back at the chapel at 10.30am with the same people sitting outside on the same benches, smoking away, slowly killing themselves and looking for all the world as though they had performed the vigil from the night before.

The Requiem Mass followed at 11.00am and it left me amazed.  I had been 10 years away from this scene, 10 years away from the man-made construct which is the Catholic Church.  In that time we have all been made aware of the disgraceful behaviour of some of the men of God, priests of the Church.  We have all been faced with the consumate disregard successive Popes and bishops have for the Catholic population in their charge.  Yet the present Catholics ie those that were there that morning have ignored all the evidence put in front of them and still join in and mumble, meaningless to them, the prayers ordered by their priests.  Holding them in awe as of previous years, dipping their fingers in so called holy water at the numerous fonts, standing, sitting and kneeling at the drop of a hat to rituals done out of habit because that is how the Church has taught them.  Do as I say and do not think is the mantra from the clerics as they persist in this holier than thou nonsense.  It horrifies me to think I was of a mind with them once but I am glad I am where I am and not where they are, automatons going through motions as though hypnotised.  At least I have seen through the scam.

The same six lifted the coffin and delivered it to the hearse and off for one more ritual at Moston Cemetery in North Manchester.  The north inner city of Manchester took the brunt of the immigrant detrita washed up on English shores in the 19th century.  Driving past thousands of graves, all with Irish names, you could believe you were in any cemetery in the island of Ireland.  There were also enclaves of other immigrants that hit Manchester in that century, Italians in the latter stages of the century and Slavs disrupted by genocide in Europe during the first half of the 20th century, being buried in the same ghettos as which they lived.  However the vast majority were Irish who started to escape the deprivation of their own land after the Famine, to live and work in the deprivation of North Manchester and breed a generation or two of which I am proud to be a part.

Michael, my younger brother, who bore the brunt of my father’s last days and organised the whole of the ceremonies we had attended and weaved his way through the political and legal minefield that is finding an appropriate grave in an overcrowded necropolis, had done a great job.  My father was put in a grave with my mother who had been killed in 1988 along with a child of my uncle’s second wife and my mother’s twin sister who had died young of illness in 1961.  My father was that close to the surface that if his nose was as long as Pinocchio’s, visitors would have used it as a flower pot.

There were 50 or so mourners at the graveside all again doing their best in pretending that I did not exist but going about their religious rituals with all that their Christian bodies could give.  The old priest did his best on that wind-swept hillside but I think frailty overcame ritual as I threw a sod at the coffin and they drenched the casket in waters holy, so they say, and the cleric scurried off to his warm but hired hearse.

I was on a plane that afternoon, glad to be away, back to my wife in Sligo Hospital who was due to be released the following day.  A plate of dim sum beckoned from our favourite Chinese restaurant as the rest made their way to the local pub to continue the ritual that Christians have.  I was back home in the West of Ireland as the mourning party finished its duties in the pub.

Thanks without a doubt are due to Michael, my brother, the maitre d’ of the whole show, who gave a great eulogy at the end of the requiem.  John Heffernan who stepped into the breach when my other brother found himself unable.  A great vote of thanks to the staff of the little sisters who formed the Guard of Honour as we carried my father out of the chapel.  Other thanks are due also to a few fellows I worked with all those years ago, Hughie Cattigan,  Shay Leonard and Sam Murray who turned up when there was no need, who all knew my father from his later years in our office and lastly but not leastly my Daughter 3 and her spouse for transporting me and putting up with my many rants.

Two weeks later on reflexion I am sad to see the deterioration in the health of my other brother.  It is a lesson to be learnt by every male.  Never grow old without a woman beside you, unless you are completely confident of your own abilities.  Kevin obviously isn’t.  And likewise I am still shaking my head at the complete and utter senselessness of the religiosity displayed by supposed intelligent people or am I giving them too much credit.

I am happy in the thought that none of that ilk or that ceremony will be attending my planned simple expiry service up on the Bricklieves and at Eastersnow.  The first in Sligo, the second in Roscommon.

19 thoughts on “Death In The Family

  1. Condolences to all the family Paul. We are going through a bizarre situation I feel I must share with you as it concerns Death too. My older sister has 4 daughters. My sister 79 years old is in Wythenshawe Hospital at the moment. The reason she is in there is because one sister, the oldest, had fought with her sisters and wound up as “carer” for her Mother. She changed the locks on her Mothers flat, Ballbrook Court Didsbury, so no one could get in. She lived a couple of doors away iin a flat her mother had bought. She then started telling people to come and see Patricia as she did not have long to live!!! What was really happening is she was starving her mother of food and water, suppling drugs not prescribed by the Mother’s Doctor. Put Morphine patches on her mother without the say so of any doctor. So the Mother was going down quickly. Her GP visited and found an “End of Life” letter sent at the behest of the daughter to be signed. The doctor stopped that happening thankfully. The mother was kept in a darkened bedroom with the curtains closed. Then another daughter arrived one day and saw the state of her mother and called the Ambulance. So she went to W Hospital. This is where it all becomes a real mess. For some unbelieve reason the Hospital believes all Luisa tells them, ignoring some 12 other family and friends including her Priest one Fr. Bernard S. yes the one you know too. At first the hospital had her in a “Safety Ward” but she is now in a General Ward, without the extra care she needs. The daughter has tried to continnue the starving of her mother in the hospital.So a battle royal has been on. Luisa, supported by some doctors and nurses and “care workers” apparently trying to hurry Patricia into the next world, while family and friends are trying to keep her alive. Two other sisters take it in turns to be at the hospital as much as possible. The youngest stays away as she has been bullied by Luisa all her life and is a fragile sort. What no one understands in the fact the hospital sent out the End of Life letter without the GP say so. The hospital have been told by Luisa that she is a Neuro-Scientist……and they seem to believe her…..Luisa is barely educated spending her life avoiding going to school but has all the skills of a Congenical Liar and Bull Artist.
    The family are seeking help but being blocked or ignored at all sorts of levels. The hospital refused a meeting planned as they arrived with a Solicitor friend.Afterwards they found out the meeeting went ahead without them!!
    Now the crunch as they say…..
    A little bird has told them that the NHS to save money and reduce the population of old people in the UK are praticing a type of Euthanasia either by the staff themselves or with the co-operation of the families. I can imagine some families agree as they are after the parents money etc.
    Paul, have you heard anything like this in your travels and recent death of your father?
    I put my concerns on a local blog and got instant replies saying to was common practise in the UK.
    If you want to do something with this please go ahead.
    I’m hoping you still have a lot of readers in the Manchester region.
    I told the MEN through there “tips” page and heard nothing….of course they heard nothing re Bedes, so I was not surprised.
    Any further questions I will happily answer.
    I just sat down and got this off my chest this morning.

    Everyone feels quite helpless.

    How often does a daughter set out to murder her mother by starvation with the help of a local hospital’s staff, doctors, nurses, care workers etc?

    Just to save the NHS a few quid?

    Murder Most Foul? Murder Most Horrid?

    1. Ken,
      This system based removal of old folk was called the Liverpool Pathway which was originated in a group of hospitals on Merseyside (Google it). It was aimed at getting rid of old folk in a reasonably humane way ahead of their appointed time in order to save money for the NHS. There was a massive outcry about this and the PR men from the NHS said the programme had been removed from the system. However it is still there and more severe under another name.
      My father a few months ago suffered some sort of haemorrhage and was removed from The Little Sisters to the New Manchester Infirmary down the road for so-called medical treatment. He was put in a room and forgotten about. My daughter who is a highly qualified nurse visited him one day and saw to her disgust plates of food that had not been eaten, no sheets on the bed and no clothes on my father and the room itself in a disgusting state. She kicked off immediately, called for the senior nurse on duty, reprimanded her and afterwards sent a letter to the medical team in charge. Their was an immediate response and for the next few days the room was spotless but they discharged him back to the Little Sisters as soon as possible.
      How you get rid of this daughter I do not know but get Bernard S to use his influence and get her into the Little Sisters as soon as possible. There she will have absolute care of the highest order.

  2. My mother was a victim of this in 2010, when she died, age 89.

    She ended up in North Manchester Hospital, with a severe bowel constriction. Due to her poor health, they could not operate, so basically she was starved to death.

    By that time, her Alzheiemer’s had advanced to such a stage that her passing away was a small mercy.

    I still have nightmares though, at the last ten days of life, lying there, unable to speak or even recognise I was her son.

    Ken, you have my utmost sympathy here.

  3. Sorry Paul, have just readyour post, and am sorry about your Father,but was to be expected, having read yopur previous article…My Uncle died in the Little Sisters a few years ago, so the ritual you described was identical to that. I will tell my Mothertomorrow .. we did go to a conceret at the Little Sisters, probably sometime on MaY, sawyour Father then but he didn’t know Mum.She is 96,and doing well, coming with us at Christmas to Northern Ireland where we will be staying with my younger son,s partner,s parents>>…. Going to Moston Cemetery tomorrow to lay a wreath on my Father’s and Grandparents grave. May you have a good Christmas.. Many regards.

    1. By the way Jean you can soon tell the Mancunians with pedigree when they travel from south to north Manchester to bury their loved ones.

  4. You have been very quiet of late, Paul. Surely an Irishman can summon up a little eloquence now and again. The world may be going to ruin, but I would prefer that it went to ruin accompanied by your entertaining, scathing, and (sometimes) downright rude comments on it all.

    1. Well eloquence goes out the window when you have had a year like mine. My world has certainly gone to ruin since mid-April when my wife, died, was resuscitated and then found to have something far worse. That, the terrible outcome of the Bede’s case when the Salford Diocese went looking for technicalities whilst seemingly aware of the Duggan et al abuse and my father’s long withering death puts entertainment and rudeness in the bin where it belongs. Perhaps when all is over, scathing entertaining and rude criticism might once again come to the fore to fight against a world that is not going to ruin but is in fact fucked.

  5. Hi Paul……hope your year will be a better one, wr did have a great Christmas in Banbridge and Scarva…stayed at Blackwell house, my son,s partner’s parents B & B.goigke it if you like..an amazing place..win the best B & B award last year for the whole of Ireland..keep well, my Mum keeps very well,97 in April xxx

    1. Unfortunately Jean my year went worse with the unexpected death of my wife of nearly 44 years on Christmas Day last. I have been wanting to write about it, the loneliness, the massive dramatic change in ones life style, the emptiness that is now all around me. A thing nobody ever prepares you for and I cannot for some reason put words together but it is a subject that needs airing, most will have to face it one day.

  6. Paul. I am so sorry to hear of your tragic loss and send you my sincere condolences. I have been a reader of your blog for many years and as an ex-Bedian ( a couple of years later than you), found your revelations about what took place there all those years ago often disturbing but, regrettably, all too believable.
    I will keep checking your page and hope that, at some point soon, I will find you have been able to write again. In the meantime, I hope your happy memories of the many years you had together, as well as the joys of the family you made together, will help you going forward.

  7. Paul… I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your dear wife… I wouldn.t have written in Feb if I had known..I met Sheila (Connor)Ogden this week, and she told me, my deepest sympathy, I know words cannot really express, but thinking of you, no-one can understand really how you much feel til it happens, ..may your and your family find the strength to cope… with love Jean xxx

    1. Thanks Jean and as you say nobody can prepare you for it. Many talk of the dead but few of those who have to keep going. January and February were particularly difficult and even now things are raw but thanks for writing.

    1. Yes Jean, I have three in Manchester, one in Africa, one in Yorkshire and one in Dublin and they are always knocking on my door these days.

  8. Dear Paul,

    Your many friends (and even foes, lol)via this blog would love to see you posting again.
    Hope you are ok.

    1. I would if I could but at this moment I can’t. However The day might come when I can lift the shackles.

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