He Has Gone
Copyright 2008 by Margie Hofman
A year ago Hank, my strong fit husband decided he would celebrate his birthday with his two brothers and their families in Holland. We had a wonderful time, greatly enjoyed the family conversation and the wonderful Dutch food. One brother asked Hank why he was having a birthday this year and not next year for his 70th – he said “I just felt I needed to be together with you all” Another brother invited us to a barbecue because Hank shared the same birthday with his grandson. We sat in the summer sunshine, talking about old times and enjoying the company of the youngsters. We then went out in the evening to Rotterdam. The next day we visited old friends and visited an extremely old town called Schoonhaven , perfect holiday.
We came back to England via Belgium and France and later in July were invited to go back to our old area in Ealing to celebrate Village Day at Norwood Green, probably the last village green before London. We met old friends we had known for 20 years. We met two Indian friends again. One of them invited us for a meal. Afterwards Hank did not feel well, he said “Your Indian friend makes her food too highly spiced.” The next morning in the hotel he could not eat breakfast because he felt ‘full’
We came back to Canterbury and Hank started to get stomach pain, slightly and then more severe. I rang a specialist at our hospital and got to see him quickly. By this time Hank had started to lose weight and the specialist said the non-hodgkins lymphoma he had conquered over 15 years ago had now come back with a vengeance.
Hank went into hospital for tests and I could tell by the look on the faces of medical staff that they were not hopeful. He had chemotherapy – the first session worked and the large lump in his stomach decreased – we were so hopeful – but then within two weeks it returned. Hank was admitted to hospital but always hopeful and cheerful. Always full of optimism. We talked a lot. I think he only realised he was dying when he told me how to read the electricity metre and how the bills were paid.
He came home for a week and his brothers came over to see him. The last day at the house he stood at the bedroom window and said “I hate to say goodbye to this lovely garden” My daughter and I struggled down stairs with him but he was too weak to walk. Some men were mending the road and we asked them to help us.
Back in the hospital the specialists said it was best that he went to a hospice where it was quieter and calm and less noisy than a hospital ward. I slept the night by his bed.
His specialist (also a Dutchman) came to see him. “Hank I have just come to say Hello” Hank said “Yes and goodbye too” “Yes that as well, we have really tried out best.” My sister and daughter come around 10.a.m. Hank’s last words were “Its not fair” How true.
The two funeral services were packed with people who Hank had known for just the seven years we had been down here. Friends, neighbours, men from the Paratroop Regiment who had adopted him as an honorary member, friends from my history class and army welfare people, his brothers and their families and my family and even some school friends from 50 years ago.
He was a noisy energetic man, physically
strong, making and mending things, fixing things for other people.
The house is now horribly quiet. The worse time is the evenings when
I sit here on my own on the couch we always shared. We have a garden
seat that I can’t sit on. I am so aware it is me there on my
own. I am embarrassed that I cry a lot, a song will trigger off the
tears. I sleep with his T shirt under the pillow. During the last
days he said “You were the best” and last week I notice
the label of the T shirt sticking out – it just said “The
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