Dad died as the dawn broke. Before he went to sleep the night before, I spent my final hour with him. Heart failure and whiskey made him ramble, but I got his gist. I tucked him in, as he had tucked me in once and kissed him goodnight. “Leave the curtains open, would you darling, I want to see the dawn.” Those were the last words I ever heard him say.
Surrounded by his children, it was a good death and with it came a strange release from his paternal authority over us. Afterwards, waiting for the undertaker, we became naughty. My sister, giggling, put on his shoes and glasses and shuffled around, pretending to be him. We raided his pockets for his last thirty pounds and someone went out and bought champagne with it. We played his favourite tunes much too loudly, almost disrespectfully, cocooned in a strange, hysterical grief bubble.
Later, one by one we crept back to see him on his death bed. We smoothed his shirt, combed his hair, inspected his hands, kissed his cold forehead. The grandchildren, some as young as three came in, curious. We answered their questions as best as we could. After a while, we told the children that soon they’d come to take Grandad’s body away. There was a long silence, then the youngest piped up “But aren’t they going to take his head, too?”