Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Love Is Watching Someone Die

What Sarah Said - Death Cab For Cutie

The origins of this blog were forged over a decade ago. I was a 20 year old boy who had never been laid and was still coming to terms with the death of my sister. I weighed 22 stone, spent my nights drinking in the pub and hid everything under a mask of laughter.  I loathed myself and things were about to get worse. One day whilst on my lunch break at work – at the time I was working a dead-end job as a purchase ledger clerk – I received a call.

“Mister Lawson?” asked a calm voice.
“Speaking,” I replied.
“This is Doctor Brookes; I’m in charge of your fathers care. Were you aware that he was admitted to hospital?”
“No, the last update I had was a month ago to tell me that he had gone back into full-time care.”
“I’m afraid to tell you that his condition has been deteriorating for some time and that this morning he collapsed on the ward. He’s stable… for now but it would be best if you could come into the hospital.”

It was a call I had been dreading but not prepared for.

My father had not been well for many years; he wasn’t overweight or much of a drinker, but he smoked, a lot and although his 30-a-day Benson and Hedges habit had contributed to his condition, it wasn’t his real problem. For nearly a decade he’d battled with depression, which he’d say had been triggered after his marriage had broken down, but which had, with hindsight, surfaced long before. For I can’t recall a time where I would’ve called him ‘healthy,’ as his behaviour made him a contrary figure for much of my youth.  He’d often be sullen, prone to frequent bouts of paranoia and jealousy that manifested themselves in an argumentative nature that become so controlling that he eventually pushed my three older sisters out from home by their late teens, and forced my Mother to leave him shortly after.

As a child my father and his twin brother had been abandoned by their mother and the prospect of being abandoned again was the final straw. It embittered him to the rest of life. He loved his children, but having never been loved properly by his own parents had ill equipped him for fatherhood. The loss of his family was something that he never really recovered from. As such he became a tragic figure to me; an example of how not to be and I often told friends “I didn’t want to end up like him.” End up like him. Even typing those words now bring a well of sadness to my chest and fill my eyes. It’s easy to believe in fate when you look at the past with 20:20 vision.

An hour and two buses later I arrived at the hospital and after finding my way to his ward a nurse, whose face I can’t remember, took me in to see my Father. He was alone, semi-conscious and despite being on a respirator, barely able to breathe. The sound was akin to someone suffering an asthma attack, coughing up phlegm and choking on blood all at the same time. It still keeps me awake at night. I took his hand.

“Dad, it’s me. I’m here.”

He opened his bloodied eyes and his face contorted with a mixture of relief and pain. He knew I was there, that he wasn’t alone anymore. His twin brother had died of heart failure the year before and I’m not sure he expected anyone to come. I held his hand, told him I loved him and offered what little comfort I could. I have never felt so useless. After what felt like a few minutes but what had in fact been an hour, Dr Brookes asked me if he could talk with me for a moment. Taking me to a room off of the main hall that was rank with that hospital smell ­– a mixture of disinfectant and death – he said,
“Your father suffered a severe respiratory arrest this morning and we revived him. In his current condition if he suffers a second attack, which looks likely, we may be able to revive him but he will be in even more pain than he is now.” I couldn’t stop crying.

“As the only next of kin we have, you are in charge of his care. I know this is difficult to hear but your Father is not likely to recover in fact as time passes his condition and pain is only likely to worsen.”
Here comes part which I have carried with me, every minute or every day since.
“I have an option for you to consider, a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form, which if you sign will allow us to make your father comfortable and ease his suffering.”

I don’t really remember what Brookes said next. The moments that followed are just white noise. A deafening tinnitus which is probably some form of self-preservation, all I know is that when I came back to myself I was in alone and staring at a telephone. I felt numb; I needed support, I had to tell my sisters and my dad’s older brother – who all lived close-by – what was happening.

None of them agreed to come to the hospital; I guess they had their reasons.

I called my mother too. She at least came down to the hospital to comfort and support me, but I couldn’t let her do anymore. She’d had already watched my sister pass away from meningitis, she didn’t need to carry any more pain.

I had to make this choice alone and knew what signing the form would mean. You’re effectively giving the doctor permission to turn up the morphine drip and let your loved one slip away peacefully. A form of euthanasia which occurs every day, but isn’t subject to the outrage of right wing press. As someone that doesn’t believe in an afterlife my decision has weighed on me ever since. I signed the form.

The hours that followed taught me the meaning of the word harrowing. I sat unmoving with my father, comforted him with memories of happier times and fought back the tears as over the next seven hours life struggled from his body. His last coherent act was to reach out to hug me and tell me he was “scared.” Before eventually the drugs took his pain and sucked the last of the light from his eyes.

It was the launching off point for my own life. After months of coming to terms with what I had done (and there are still days when I wonder if I made the right choice) I resolved to change how I lived and ‘do something’ worthwhile.

Depressing music has played a massive part in those changes; helping me through some really tough times, battle with my own demons and put me in better place than I’ve ever been. The songs that you’ll find on this blog have all played their part along the way. Not because I like to wallow in my sadness, but because they offer me a way of expelling the feelings before they bottle up.

Whilst I know we all cope differently, I sincerely hope that they bring you some solace too.


  1. This must have been very difficult for you to write Kev. I know you're still carrying this around inside but that this shows a great deal of healing. Just wanted to let you know that your love of music and the effort you put into sharing it gets us all through some of our tough times. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your life hun.