Less than two days to live

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Less than two days to live

In memory of my best mate Steve…..

Got the call to visit my mate Steve in hospital who I’ve known for over 55 years. I know the news isn’t going to be good, so before I entered the ward I took some deep breaths, put on a positive face and walked in….

There he was flanked by wife Angelica and his two daughters on the other side of the bed…

I said hi to everyone. I was given a chair, and with a dry mouth and sweaty palms chatted to my mate…

Angelica indicated to the girls that they were leaving for the night and promised to revisit around 10 in the morning. Just as she was going out of the ward and out of Steve’s sight, she beckoned me to join her out in the corridor. I remember her looking at me and saying he’s got less than two days to live. All I could say was: “Thanks for letting me know.”

It must have been difficult for her to tell me what she did, especially as we didn’t see eye to eye for over 50 years. With that she was off. By the time I got my thoughts together, her daughters were at the end of the longest corridor you have ever seen…

I put the smile back on my face and sat next to my best mate…

We chatted about all the tubes and wires in him, then moved on to what I got up to during the week. Both of us found it hard to think or say anything amusing. The nurse came up and changed his drip bag for a full one, and gave him his pain killers. My mouth must have dried up, because I drank 90% of Steve’s orange juice.

He told me about the other three guys on the ward. The one opposite had part of his bowel taken away, but worse than that, he had dementia. Apparently during visiting time when the chap opposite’s wife visited, she had slight dementia too. Well, you can imagine the conversations they had, only to forget what they said minutes later… Steve had a wry smile when he told me about them.

The guy next to Steve had half his stomach removed and had to have a bag. He was only 26 and had three kids, and he’d just started a business up.

Lastly, the guy in the corner was a Jehovah’s witness, though I thought they never went into hospitals. Steve sussed it out because the guy asked doctors for all his blood results, and later on they were both reading a big book together, which Steve said looked like a Bible. It turns out it was.

Then, Steve said that he wished he had done three things before his illness took hold – a bit like a bucket list for dying people. The first thing he said was he would like to drink some champagne. Well, Steve loved his wines, so it surprised me that he hadn’t had champagne.

Secondly, he wished he had tried a steam room and sauna, which also puzzled me.

The last two things he said, was that he would love one last go on the splash boat at East Park in Hull, mainly because we went on that ride nearly every weekend when we were younger – even spending our bus fare to have one last ride… Lastly he wanted to do some clay pigeon shooting…

By this time it was getting on for 8.30pm, and a nurse shift change. We looked at each other, and as if we read each other’s mind, I said to him, “Dare you walk out of here with that drip.”

Steve was weak and poorly, but his sunken eyes lit up, and he said, “Let’s do it…”

As we walked slowly past the nurses station, it just seemed too easy for us to walk down that long corridor, walk through the doors, turn right, and within 50 feet we were at the main enquiries desk with just some old guy reading a book. He wasn’t interested in us.

I went to get the car, and zoomed up to reception, where Steve was shuffling towards the car, pulling that big chrome stand holding his fluids…

I put Steve in the car and told him to keep that fluid bag as high as he could, while I folded the chrome four-wheeled stand and put it in the boot. What were we thinking? Before we knew it, we were at this country pub. I put the chrome bag holder together, clipped on his fluids, and we slowly shuffled into the lounge…

While Steve was sitting at this big table with his fluid bag, wearing some striped pyjamas, I got a fit of the giggles as I ordered a bottle of Moet Chandon. Even the price of £50 didn’t stop me laughing…

By this time Steve was having a bit of a painful chuckle. People thought he was doing this for charity, and came over and popped pounds and 50 pence coins on the table…We laughed as we sipped our Champagne. Thinking this is the first of Steve’s bucket list. Steve wasn’t overly impressed with the bubbly, but I think it was his medication. It was getting on for 10.30pm. The Hotel’s swimming pool that I used regularly will be empty by now, and I think I can sneak Stevey boy in through the back door. We put the £7.50 in the Dove house charity box, then made our way to the car. Steve was a bit tipsy with the drugs and booze, and pulled out the cannula, and ditched the four-wheeled chrome thing.

It took us 12 minutes to get to the Hotel pool. I showed my pass, went in normally, and slid by the side of the pool to let my mate in. The pool attendants were cleaning up and never saw us. Suddenly all the lights went out, and fortunately for us, the pool lights were left on. We gave it 20 minutes, then we walked into the steam room which was just cooling down. Steve was in his jim jams, and I was stripped to my boxers. We laughed like a couple of cheeky kids, enjoyed the steam room, then the sauna, and eventually made our way to the spa, where we had a glorious hour chatting about old times, and things like that. I could see Steve’s eyes dropping, so helped him to the poolside loungers where we both crashed out.

With it being summer, it was light at 4am, so I awoke Steve found some unfitting lost and found clothing from the pool boiler room. He looked like a pratt; nothing matched, nothing fitted, but who cares…

We left by the fire door and got in the car. I saw Steve take two pain killers just before he got in my car… It was off to East Park and the splash boat. Steve was really weak now. I managed to get him up the stairs to the big steel splash boat. We sat at the back, I leaned over and pulled the retaining lever, and it started to slowly move forward. Suddenly it was on the steep incline and down it went. We cheered and shouted like little kids as the boat hit the water…

My knuckles were white. It brought back all those memories we had: feeding the ducks, going on the swings and seesaws. I wanted to point out to Steve the sweet shop where we got those balsa wood aeroplanes for a tenner, but Steve had gone. He was slumped in the corner of the boat, we had lost him. I don’t know why, but I just talked and talked and talked to him with tears in my eyes, for what seemed ages.

I remember a police siren and a small police car pulling up in the car park with a young bobby, with Steve`s wife, and of all people, my wife…

I helped the bobby carry my mate down the splash boat steps, and by this time into a waiting ambulance. All I remember is Steve’s wife giving me some probably well deserved ear ache, my wife shouting and swearing at me, the young bobby taking and taking notes of what had happened… To my surprise, he had a tear in his eye as I explained what had happened.

My head was spinning. Anjelica was threatening to sue me, my wife was promising to divorce me. Everyone went their separate ways. Anjelica and my wife in the ambulance, the policeman went back to HQ to report what had happened. It suddenly came to me that we had one last thing to do on Steve’s bucket list, and that was clay pigeon shooting.

I have shot clays from Bridlington before, so I drove there from East Park. I remember pulling into the fishing and shooting range at 8.50am. My mobile went. It was my wife again shouting and screaming abuse at me. I turned the mobile off, walked into the reception, showed my pass, hired a gun and some cartridges and walked to the shooting range. There was a loud bang. Did I shoot a clay? Or maybe a rabbit? Or did I join my best mate in heaven?

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