It was on a Friday night, 20th June 1997. I had just made that long journey up the M6 from my office in Birmingham to my home in Merseyside. The journey that I made every day for 5 years. I was tired after a long week and I was looking forward to a glass of wine and dinner with Vishva. Just after 6pm the phone rang. It was my sister, Pat. She was with Mam and Dad at their home in Leicester. She was obviously distressed. I could hear in the background that my brother, Andrew, was with her* She told me that Dad was unable to breathe and that she thought it was a panic attack. She asked me to speak to him, to try and calm him down. The Doctor had visited and said that there was nothing seriously wrong with him. I realised from my recent visit that this could not be true. He had not recovered from his many recent illnesses and he was clearly not well.
She gave him the phone and a weak voice said Hello to me. It was so faint that I found it difficult to hear. His was panting. I asked what was wrong. He found it difficult to reply as he tried to catch his breath. I asked again if he was all right. Again there was no reply. I asked for a third time as I tried to calm him. The phone went silent for a few seconds and he simply replied, “I’m bolloxed son, I’m bolloxed.” He said no more. They were his final words to me. I put down the phone and sobbed. There was nothing I could do to help. My sister rang back a few minutes later and said that he had calmed down and was breathing normally again. For some reason I still felt uneasy. I could not get those final words out of my head.
The next day, 21st June, Midsummers Day, at exactly 6 o’clock the phone rang. My wife, Vishva answered. She gave the phone to me. It was Flo, their neighbour, the mother, of my oldest friend, Malc. All she said was, “I’m sorry Tommy, your Dad has just died. Can you come as quickly as possible?” I put down the phone and told Vishva. We got into the car, with Kieran, our son, and began the journey I had always feared. We did not speak. The only words in my head, “I’m bolloxed son, I’m bolloxed.”
The death certificate said that he died of pneumonia and heart failure bought on by the MRSA he had caught during his long stay in hospital. The doctor was wrong. He had not been suffering from a panic attack. He was drowning.
He died in the bathroom of their council bungalow. Mam was bathing him. He fell to the floor and could not be moved. The door opened inwards and the emergency services could not open it as he was blocking the way*. He died in my Mam’s arms. I could not imagine a better way for him to go than with the one he loved. Life had worn him out. He was bolloxed. But in his final moments he was in the arms of the woman with whom he had shared everything; Marriage, births, good times, bad times, happiness, tears, and now death.
* I made it a requirement after his death that in all of our schemes, bathroom doors opened both ways to prevent similar incidents.
* If you read this please read my brothers comment. He did so much to help Dad and the rest of my family. The loss of all of them over a short period of time contributed to his failing mental health. It is important to understand how Dad’s death and the deaths of our Mam and Sisters effected him too. I am so proud of him.