Death Becomes Him


Today my Taid (Welsh for Grandfather ) passed away.

The last time I saw my Taid was when he was in hospital, and that was a few months ago. I returned to Madrid thinking he’d be soon well again, and start behaving himself by taking his medications as he should have been, and taking care of himself as he should have been and so on. Yet, he refused to do so (stubborn until the very end). Consequently his health deteriorated fast, to the point where he was taken in and out of hospital, collapsing at home and so on.

My Nain (Welsh for Grandmother), his wife, died three years ago, and to be truthful my Taid never recovered from her death. He didn’t think she would die when she did, but she did wasting away in a hospital bed. After that, Taid was never the same person again. Then again who is after they lose someone they love?

When my Mum told me Taid had died I was sitting in my Spanish class, and it was a shock. I began to cry and promptly left the class to return home.

I called my parents. I spoke to my Dad first (my Taid was his Father), and true to my Dad’s style he was upbeat, his only concern was to enquire about me and what I’m up to. In contrast, and very normally, my Mum was emotional. She was worried about me because at the moment I’m alone in Madrid, upset and stuck with the knowledge I’m not there for them at this moment.

I asked if Taid had company when he died, and my Mum said he was alone; by the time everyone had been informed (it’s a big family), and everyone arrived at the hospital, my Taid had already passed. Not even a Nurse by his side. I think that upset me more, to know that he was alone when he did eventually pass, and that for days he had been unconscious and unaware of who was there or what was happening. Yes, he had suffered before his death, and wasted away in a similar fashion to that in which my Nain did. And, in many ways I am thankful I never had to see that happen to such a strong man, as those things stick with you and over-ride the real way a person should be remembered.

Though my Taid was expected to die, death in whatever form is never really OK, or explainable.

And now it is complicated.

My Taid was a stern man, he was no Angel. He was Irish Catholic, spoke Gaelic and had been brought up tough on a farm in Southern Ireland. Try and ask him what his life was like, and he would act as though the question had never been asked, he despised talking about the past, about the family he left behind at 15 because his own Father sold him off as labour to a neighbouring farmer.

He ran away at 15 from his tyrannical Father, but felt guilt for leaving his loving Mother behind. Taid went over to Wales, settled there, found work and then eventually met my Nain. They were married for an age and had eight children together.

The saddest story is that what my Taid endured growing up made him hard, and angry. Sadder still was that he then inflicted his own unresolved emotions and past on his own children. In short, allowing that cycle of Hell to perpetuate.

Luckily for me, my Dad married my Mum. She helped show my Dad what it was to be loved and to feel love, to see what a family should be, to realise that kids should be seen and heard, and that interaction, expressing emotion and being nurturing is normal and not a weakness.

In fact, my Dad has a great nature. He is the most placid person I know, the kindest and the fairest. He might not always say too much, but then he was brought up not to be a talker, as he is a man, but what he does say, does count and makes infinite sense.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say my Dad is the last of a generation who really are men.

So, for all my Taid did or could have done, he still made my Dad. My Taid, like my Dad is part of me and I am part of them and proud to be. I don’t judge my Taid’s actions, if I’d endured what he had growing up, who knows what person I’d have become.

Here’s to my Taid (Irish whiskey in hand); I love you, and although I don’t recall you ever telling me that you loved me, I always knew that you did. God bless.

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