Twenty past seven was read on the My Story Series on BBC Radio Ulster on 1st June 2006
It was half - past six and it was a late tea. The eating was forced out of courtesy to my mother who had prepared it .There was no conversation that tea-time, just an awkward silence. The last few weeks had been difficult for all of us. The mental and physical exhaustion was beginning to show on my mother. That was hard to watch. Eye contact was out of the question. I would only cry and that would upset her. I looked away, focusing on the old frayed and worn mat which covered the tiles on the floor next the kitchen door. It could soon be under the soles of the shoes of visiting relatives, friends, acquaintances and strangers. I would need to replace it soon. "No time like the present" An excuse to escape the awkwardness.
I had to pass the hospital on my way to the DIY store. I could not resist glancing quickly at the third floor window to the front of the hospital where I had been with him earlier. I intended to call there later that evening to continue my nightly vigil.
The receipt from the DIY store was timed at five- past seven.
I drove back the reverse route again to leave the new mat to my mother's. Before I had passed the hospital entrance something, beyond the realms of explanation called to my sub-consciousness. I pulled into the hospital car park right away.
Ding.. Ding.. a rude awakening to the fact I had reached the third floor once again. The lift doors slid open and I walked towards the reception desk.
"Oh there you are. We're only just after calling your mother. Gosh. That was quick." The nurse's comments puzzled me.
"No I'm only back from the....." my voice drifted into the ether as the reality of her statement hit home with me. I walked in a daze towards the side ward where I would see two nurses tending him.
My eyes found a way through the many tubes, drips and drains, which had been my father's life support system for the past few days, and fixed onto his grey ashen face. His head was propped , his eyes closed.
"Would you like to be on your own?" asked a nurse. My mouth opened but my vocal chords didn't engage. I nodded. They left. The intake of breathe appeared to be difficult for him. I felt helpless.
I sat beside him and I slipped my hand into his stroking it. The breathing became more shallow. I had so much to say with so little time.
I lent over and whispered "Thanks for all you've done for me dad. Thanks". I redirected the tears now streaming down my face with my other hand...."Our Father who art in heaven..." I was stumbling over the words that he had taught me whilst sitting on the edge of my bed once..."Amen..... Amen dad".
The breathing stopped, the hand relaxed, the jaw dropped and I lost him.
It was twenty past seven.