Travelling with the dead: transit

davThe little grey box and I have made it to Hong Kong.

We’ve had no issues going through the layers of security. We are surviving the physical manifestations of bureaucracy that are integral to international travel.

I have four hours in this transitional space, a numb space, and that is how I feel, numb.

The magnitude of what I am undertaking has struck me, legs up the airport wall trying to drain fluid, it has struck me deep.

And then there I am again  beside my  Nan’s bed in the last hours of her life transitioning from this to whatever is next.

Her breathing is laboured. That deep rattling breathe that occurs before death. There is no sound on earth like it.

“Nan, I’m here…Tui is here too.”

(Tui is a family dog – a little terrier and the best of canine creatures.)

The tone of Nan’s breathing changes.

Deep breathe in and then a soft “I love you”, another deep breath and another soft “I love you.”

This continues for the last hour we spend together. This is how we say goodbye. Every god damn breathe she has with me is to to say she loves me.

Every damn breathe.

“I love you.”

I stroke her hand, so fragile, as the life leaves her body.

“I love you too Nan.”

I stand up, the dog licks Nan’s face.

I kiss my Nan on the lips lifting my hand from hers.

The dog jumps from the bed.

I look at my Nan, a tiny sparrow in a huge bed, wrapped in her favourite grey mohair blanket.

I put Tui on her lead.

I look at Nan again. This is the last time I see you alive.

You take another deep breathe and I turn away tears pouring down my face.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Walking down the corridor away from my Nan is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I could have stayed there fore ever and yet I left. Other people needed to say goodbye and we had said everything we needed too.

We knew we were loved. That we loved one another. Truly, madly, deeply.

We loved one another through trauma, through the mundane, through clearing up the poop of litters and litters of Labrador puppies, through ironing sheets perfectly flat, through the passing of family members, through marriage, through divorce, through failure, through success, through moving homes, through family fights, through riding horses, through mad adventures, through danger, through our despair at the lack of reasonable gluten free bread.

We were loved.

And so this trip is my act of love to a life sometimes fraught with drama but one filled with love. Even if somewhat damaged love at times.

Life will always impose it’s circumstances.

The  Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Paris has just been called.

I check Nan in her little grey box. I bought a bag especially to carry her and my camera gear. She’s tucked in next to my Canon and it’s lenses. She’s held softly in the world whatever turbulence we hit.

Poleaxed by the first flight , bent weirdly to fit the seat, the lights of seat screens visible behind my eyelids  I embrace morpheus deeply. The deep disrupted sleep of the traveller.

And before I know it we have arrived. I’m in the French immigration processing queue at Charles De Gaulle, passport in hand and a sheath of papers for the little grey box.

The seriously armed gentlemen don’t even ask, it is “Bonjour, Ça va?” stamp and go.

I whisper to Nan as I walk into the Arrivals hall.

“Nan, we’re here.”

Our driver is waiting. It takes us an hour to get into the city. But we are here. It has begun.














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