Harold. Part Two.
Harold Part Two.
About this time last year my brother in law Harry found a lump on his chest, he did have a different lump about 2 years before this, it was on his arm he had been offered an operation but he declined. This new lump seem different, for it had come up very quickly! When myself, Paul and our kids went to visit him he showed it to us. We or I didn’t think anything strange about it, but as time went by the lump would go down and reappear somewhere else on his body, so that after tests, he found out he had cancer! He was still as active as ever going to car boots, antique fairs, looking after his chickens, busy with his cars, but now he was also having time in hospital and at the doctors.
After 8 months with various treatments he was not able to drive anymore so friends would drive him wherever he wanted to go as his left arm had no strength. He had chemotherapy, treatments, his hair to fall out, he was not big built and he lost some weight. There was a time he would be in hospital for days on end, If I remember correctly the longest stay in hospital was 3 weeks, there on the ward he told us, “Cancer is no respecter or persons, it attacks the young, old, rich and the poor.” He later told us, “I have seen the pattern, cancer, treatment then death.” Harry was determined to fight it and not let it beat him, then after many months he was told he would have to have a special mask made, it was like a frame as he laid down it was from his head to just above his nipples, you could even see the shape of where his eye brows were, the mould was that good! It was covered in tiny holes so the treatment could be directed safely and screwed down on top of Harry so he would not be able to move! Most who had this mask made, after their treatment they didn’t want to keep it, but Harry wanted to keep his, meanwhile his cancer spread, we visit him about once a month. One month when we were there he showed us a small clear tube that went into his chest, I think it had liquid in it, but I am not sure, this had been fitted before he had the mask and the treatment done. He looked well, until he took his top off! When I saw the cancer so large, I was able to understand fully, what people meant, when they talk of bad things spreading like a cancer.
Harry was still chatty and had plans; he told other people who visited that he wanted to buy a motorbike! He did have a motorbike many years ago, when he was a lad. About a month ago he told us he wanted to do major building work on his home, I said to him, “That’s a big job to want to do now, it doesn’t need doing.” He was adamant that’s what he wanted to do. He also wanted even more chickens. My Husband Paul said to him, “I have a complete encyclopaedia book of Chickens at home, I will bring it the next time we come to see you.”
I had plucked up the courage to give Harry a religious leaflet, he’d shown me that the Jehovah Witness had been to the door and left him a leaflet, he had read it from cover to cover and said, “Some of what they said, sort of made sense”, but he was not a religious man! I gave him my religious leaflet called; Two Birthdays and he said, “I will read it.” I told him, “I will pray for you,” I just didn’t have the courage to pray for him there in that little room with everyone so close to me. I was bolder when I was young even though I was 100% shyer than I am now, courage had left me and I felt ashamed.
Another time after this, that we as a family visit Harry I gave him a tract called, This Is Your Life, it had no words in it, just simple cartoon drawings, Paul had seen it by the front door and had asked me what it was, I had told him. “I am bringing it for Harry tonight,” he said to me, “He will refuse to have it, and he doesn’t do religion!!!” But I thought, ‘he is not the 1 with cancer, Harry is!’
On 1 of our visits I had asked Harry about all the items he had bought over the years, he told us, “He had sold everything he owned....” I thought that seemed a bit drastic!
Harry was in a lot of pain, he was a strong cookie, but his arm hurt a lot, once the Doctor was called at 4am and he had to go back into hospital. Harry didn’t like hospitals, when his Mum was very ill; he visited her for a short amount of time.
Then one day recently I felt we shouldn’t wait for another month to visit, so I said to Paul let’s ask if we can visit today, so I rang and was told by Amy, his step daughter, “No, the Doctor is here, he doesn’t want any visitors, he has trouble breathing!!” That was on the Tuesday, then I said to Paul lets visit the same week Saturday, but not phone first, just turn up, he agreed and I picked up Harry’s Sister Josie and his Brother Frank and we all went over, we had heard from his kids that he wasn’t very well. As we approached the house we could see him downstairs in bed by the window, on his back, sleeping with his mouth wide open. As we arrived at the front door, his mother in law, Sandra opened it and said, “You must all be quiet, he is a very ill man!!!!” None of us expected that sort of a welcome! I had gone determined to pray for him, that I would ask him if we could go in another room, but I could clearly see that would be out of the question, for he was not a wear of our visit, he was asleep the whole time we were there. Three things from that evenings visit stood out to me, there was lots of seats swopping as Cassandra and other step kids went in the back room to check on Harry and at 1 point I was standing next to a seated Cassandra, as the cancer nurse was talking to her, that what the Doctor has said that morning that, “There was nothing more they could do for Harry”, she suddenly burst into tears, I instinctively wanted to put my arm on her back and give her a gentle rub, but I was terrified she would elbow me away so I didn’t, she had her face in her hands as she was bent forward where she sat, crying. The reason why I was terrified? Thirty minutes before, I’d been standing by the kitchen door and Cassandra was in there with a few of her mates and suddenly as Paul was speaking we all heard a very loud SHHHHHHHHH!!!! Indicating we should be silent! How rude, I thought! These were Harrys Brothers and Sister she was saying that to! Another thing that stood out to me that evening was the signs everywhere, handwritten, “Do not smoke,” yet the majority was smoking including Cassandra!!! Many pictures were on the walls, there was a lovely picture of Harry on his wedding day to Cassandra, he looked very happy and so did she, for it wasn’t very often she smiled, but she too looked happy in that photo. I took a picture of it, and soon after we left. I forgot to mention there were chickens in the front garden in co-ops as Harry had asked a friend to get him some more, before they all went to bed they said the chickens would be taken to the back garden. As we got back into the car so I could take everyone home I said, to Harry’s siblings, “If it was my Brother, I would have gone to him and held his hand,” Josie said, “If I did that and he opened his eyes and he saw me standing there holding his hand, he would think he was dying, for we are not a huggy, touchy family,” I thought, but he IS dying, so hold his hand while he is still alive! So that was Saturday.
Harry was on all our minds, and 2 days later we decided to visit him again, this was on the Monday, we weren’t going to tell them we were coming, we would just turn up. Our Daughter Megan was with us and Harry’s Brother Frank, his Sister Josie and my Husband Paul, our son Daniel said he was going to the gym, he’d been all the other times we’d visit, but Megan hadn’t been for about 4 months, as she was revising for her exams. Harry’s bed had been moved from the window, he’d wanted it by the window so he could see out, as he loved the outdoors, but now he had no say as to where his bed was, and it had been moved away from the window and that I did agree with, as he had looked SO ill the last time I saw in at the window, he still wasn’t awake, but we could see he was clearly in a lot of pain! Frank said he would go in to see him, then Paul went in, as the youngest son he came out crying, I was going to go in with Megan and Josie would go in before us, but Steven one of Harry’s oldest friends said he didn’t recommend Megan go in he said, “You must remember him as he was, not as he is now for you will have a shock!” At those words I was unsure if I wanted to go in too. So Megan wasn’t going in, then Josie and I would go in together for support. When we went round the corner to where Harry was, there was an unknown woman sitting right up close next to Harry! I’d never seen her before; she was gently rubbing his face and then sitting next to her was Steven, so beside Steven, Josie stood and I was near the bottom of the bed, we were all like in a long line, along the side of the bed from the top of it to the bottom, with this unknown woman at the top! Apparently this unknown woman was there the whole time his Brothers went in to say their goodbyes, later on back in the car, on the way home Paul said he wanted to tell the unknown woman to “F*CK OFF, I want to have time alone with my brother!”
Steven had told us, ”Yesterday Harry, weak as he was, went into the back garden to feed his chickens, we all tried to stop him but he was determined, I think that used up, all the strength he had.”
Harry was in distress so the cancer nurse was called and two of them arrived within 30 minutes they gave him pain relief and said, “If he needed them again, to call them. Cassandra had a special tiny sponge on a stick that she dipped into bottled water and dabbed it gently onto his lips; I remember seeing packs on incontinent pads nearby. Oh, how he would have hated all this, the pads, the helplessness, everyone looking at him so ill. After the nurses left he was peaceful, Steven said, “It would be ok for Megan to see him now,” so Josie, myself and Megan went in to see him, that woman was still there hogging all the precious, quality time, space that his siblings wanted, so they could say their farewells. As we were going out the door I noticed in the wall on a tiny shelf, The Young and Old Picture, of my son and Harry looking into each other’s eyes, I said to myself, on my next visit I will either take a picture of it or ask if I can have it as it’s an original picture and not a copy. We left at 9pm.
The following morning Josie rang me 10.30am to say, “Harry passed away 10pm last night,” Chloe (his step daughter had just rang to let her know) but why did it take SO long for them to tell his family? I told Daniel and said to him, “Let me tell Paul, when he wakes up.” We both decided we wouldn’t tell Megan while she was at school, but would wait until she came home.