Angels, Lovers and Songbirds – Chapter 42 – Final Plans
At 10 o’clock On Saturday morning there was a knock on the door and when he opened it he was surprised to see Sarah Peters, who was the Verger at St Lucy’s, Receptionist at the surgery and organizer extraordinaire.
“Hello Jack” she said
“Hello Sarah, This is a nice surprise”
“Weren’t you expecting me?” she asked
“No, I don’t think so” he replied
“Katie asked me to come” Sarah said
“Oh” he responded “you’d better come in then”
Jack showed her into Katie and closed the door and she was in there for over an hour before Gemma Frost arrived, quickly followed by Elise Riley, who had also been summoned.
So he showed them both into Katie’s room and closed the door again.
“Do you know what’s going on?” he asked Anne
“No I don’t” she replied with a puzzled expression.
Half an hour later the door opened and everyone decanted and much chattering ensued before they all evaporated away.
When they had gone Anne and Jack walked into Katie’s room.
“What was all that about?” Anne asked beating him to the punch.
Katie gestured towards two envelopes on the bed
“My last will and testament” she replied “and the funeral arrangements, the hymns, the readings, every detail”
“Oh” was all he could manage while Anne had to leave the room and stood in the hall crying.
“Isn’t that a bit premature?” he asked trying to make light of it.
“We both know it’s not” Katie said and forced a smile
He picked up the envelopes, one was a do it yourself Will, sealed, the other was open and contained the funeral arrangements.
“Can I?” he asked
Katie nodded and said
“I don’t see why not you’re in it”
“Am I?” he enquired
“Yes, you need to write and deliver the eulogy and say how wonderful I am, was” she replied
“Ah a work of fiction then” he said
“Very funny” Katie said and chuckled
On Sunday morning Jack felt the need for spiritual refreshment and walked down to St Lucy’s for the Sunday service.
It was a bright sunny morning and outside the church the congregants and villagers were thronging around and he realised he had forgotten it was the St Georges Day Parade.
Jack wandered around the crowd shaking hands, stopping to chat with friends and catching up on local news, taking comfort from the hum drum, eventually he ended up talking to Martina Wingrove and Hannah Peters.
When the parade and the service were over, Martina went off to find her fiancé Paul while Jack stayed and talked with Hannah until her Sister Sarah appeared, and after about twenty minutes they headed over to the Hen and Chickens.
He had a couple of drinks with the Peters girls before they went off to have Sunday lunch at Gemma Frosts house and he went home to find Anne in the kitchen making Spanish omelettes.
Jack spent the first half of Monday at the Club for a meeting with James and Jacey, which went very well so he was in good spirits but when he got home he found Carole, Anne and Gemma in the kitchen wearing grave expressions.
“What’s wrong?” he asked
“Katie’s had a bit of a downturn,” Carole said
“Why didn’t you call me?” he said crossly
“Because there was nothing you could do,” Carole said
“Apart from worry”
“And we had that department covered already” Anne added.
A wave of guilt washed over him as he came to terms with the fact that while he was discussing what has-beens and nobodies would appear on the bill for that summer’s comedy festival Katie had been suffering.
“You selfish bastard” he thought to himself as he sat down beside her bed where he stayed for the rest of the day, sitting in the uncomfortable armchair where he eventually fell asleep.
Jack awoke in the uncomfortable chair on the morning of St Georges Day with a stiff neck to find Katie was a little better than the night before.
He resolved not to put Club business before her wellbeing again and he never left her side for more than an hour at any one time and he never left the house for any reason.
Carole was at the house every day that week but despite her best efforts Katie continued to decline.
Jack sat at her bedside and tried to keep her going, though she had little or no conversation in her for the most part so he spent the time reading to her from Harry Potter.
By the weekend she had stabilized but Carole continued to come in daily and on Sunday she advised that they should call the Bishop as the end wasn’t far away, fortunately Kayleigh was on hand to give him the support Jack needed.
The mood in the house had been very subdued all week but by the time the Bishop arrived on Sunday evening the mood was positively downcast.
The Bishop went in to see Katie and they all sat in the kitchen.
About ten minutes later Reverend Massey arrived accompanied by Martina, Paul joined the Bishop and Martina joined the crowd in the kitchen and hugged them all one by one.
She told them that the word had spread through the village and the parishioners were holding a candlelight vigil at the church and a number had placed lighted candles on the path to the house.
After the Bishop had left Carole went in with the nurse to check on Katie and when she returned she said to us all.
“If you have anything meaningful you wish to say to her, now might be a good time to do it”
So they took it in turns to go in and say their goodbyes and the kitchen was awash with sobbing.
“I’ll get Marion on the phone” Anne said
“Good idea” they all agreed.
Jack spent another night in the uncomfortable chair and the next morning as he stretched out the stiffness in his neck he found Katie awake and lucid.
“I’ll be out of your hair soon” she said
“Don’t you talk like that?” he said crossly forcing back the tears and he took hold of her hand and continued
“I would give up my bed forever if it meant you could stay”
“Dear, dear Jack” she said and cried
That proved to be the last meaningful conversation he had with her as the morphine took hold and during the course of Monday Katie slipped into unconsciousness.
They took it in turns to sit with her during the day and when it was Jacks turn he sat and read to her.
He had promised in the beginning that they would finish the Harry Potter Saga before the end.
They had just started the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when she deteriorated, but he was determined to finish it.
The next day passed by in much the same way until the evening when Carole, Gemma, Anne, Kayleigh and Jack were all at her bedside.
Carole was knitting, Anne was crocheting booties, Gemma was doing something on her tablet and Kayleigh was holding Jacks arm as he continued to read Harry Potter to the assembled group and to Katie even though she had long since slipped into unconsciousness.
He finished reading about 9 o’clock and just before midnight less than three hours after he read the last words she slipped away.
And after Katie passed away Anne, Kayleigh and Jack had to leave the room while Carole and Gemma laid her out.
Long after Carole and Gemma had gone home Jack sat up in the uncomfortable chair next to Katie, or what was left of her, he knew the essence that was her was already in heaven but the loss was nonetheless hard to bear.
Anne said her goodbye to her sister and pottered around for an hour or so before going off to bed and Kayleigh kissed Jack goodnight and went home and left him to his vigil.
It was shortly after dawn, when he saw the sun rising above the trees, and he thought to himself and smiled
“Of course the dawn is brighter this morning, because Katie’s light is in it”
He kissed her cold forehead and wandered off to his room and crawled into bed.
He hadn’t been there more than fifteen minutes when the door opened and someone entered, he heard footsteps on the floor and then they were in bed cuddled up behind him and he could tell by the perfume that it was Kayleigh.
“I don’t want to be alone tonight?” she said
“Nor do I” he responded
He turned around and lay on his back and pulled her towards him so her head was on his chest and then they both slept.
The next morning he woke early to find the bed beside him empty, Kayleigh had left his bed sometime during the early morning but he didn’t notice her go.
He got up about 8 o’clock and found Anne in the kitchen making drinks he walked up behind her and kissed the top of her head
“Morning” she said “Coffee?”
“Yes please” he replied and the conversation remained in that mundane manner.
Carole came to the house about nine and hugged Jack
“How are you doing?” she asked, knowing how fond he was of Katie.
“I’m fine” he replied then she repeated the exercise with Anne and the ambulance came for Katie’s body about twenty minutes after that.
The rest of the day went by in a kind of blur and then Kayleigh came in the kitchen door and steadied the ship for him.