A post from Charli Mills asks about breathless moments. Her prompt wants life. The sort of breathlessness that is used often in popular culture. Emoting to pop songs is something I do more of than I used to. The Corrs, for example
or the Top Gun iconic hit by Berlin
Both are cheesy but they have that something if you’re in the right mood. And the breathlessness described represents a perfect moment, a realisation of something touchingly deep and idyllic, a moment to make you gasp.
Yet if we are literally breathless then that’s a case for emotions of a different kind. And watching someone take their last breath, someone close to you, has to be one of the hardest experiences. If you have the comfort of the person taking that last gasp having enjoyed a life well and fully lived, or perhaps it is a release from pain then as watcher you might find consolation. And if you believe in an afterlife of some kind, truly believe then I imagine you can look on the last breath with some equanimity.
But it must be so difficult and be full of conflicting feelings.
My parents have both died but I wasn’t there at each very final end point. Both were all but gone when I saw them last but I was elsewhere and, in all honesty I’m grateful. And in truth by the time of that final breath they were ready to let go and I was pretty much at one with it.
The only death I have sat and watched and barely believed it was really happening was of our much loved pet dog Blitz. One evening he lay on the hall floor and wouldn’t move. We, the Textilsite and I lay with him, at first unaware what was wrong as we discussed what to do. And then when it dawned on us he had died – a sudden and heart stopping moment that I will remember forever – we frantically began to try to do something, anything, to keep him alive. I’m a fairly rational man but I gave that dog mouth to mouth in a desperate attempt to keep him going. Pretty dumb when you consider a dog’s mouth and mine but this turn of events wasn’t expected and without any sort of preparation I was going to try even the stupidest of manoeuvres.
That’s love and death combining in a viscerally painful explosion of grief and little prepares you for it. Nothing really.
I felt useless, cheated, nauseated and guilty. We were only just discussing an emergency vet; he had been acting oddly for a couple of hours. Could I have done more… I still wonder.
Charli lost a dear friend in the last few days. In the post she has written very powerfully of the impact that has had on her, of her own self analysis of her emotional state and her reactions to the events as they unfolded. She has, by most people’s perception, been harsh on herself but being harsh when something as hollowing out as a close friend’s untimely death occurs is not, I suppose, unusual. How else to explain why what has happened has happened – leaving us behind, alive, taking breaths when they cannot.
But… And this will I hope be the same for Charli and Kate as it was for me and Blitz and everyone who has ever lost someone close when their term is not, by rights, up…. But part of that hurt, that feeling of inadequacy in light of such events is to give us the incentive, to put on us the duty to become the keeper of their memory, to ensure they live on a while longer in our recollections of laughter and love, walks and sloppy licks. It is to share those breathless moments of our memory, moments when we gasp a little in surprise as recall some incident. It is as if a hand has hit our chest as we recall, almost in real time, some moment, a time with them. It feels so raw, as if they are there, still just beyond our peripheral vision.
That breathlessness is very hard, a trip into tears often enough. Happy and sad, life and death, all inextricably mixed.
This is Charli’s prompt.
July 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a breathless moment. Write about life.
I’ve been writing a serial flash fiction piece involving a character, Mary North. Her life is one continuum of shocks, of gasps and grimaces.
Mary allowed herself a long slow breath, a sign of taking control back over her body. The midwife touched her hand and Mary opened her eyes. ‘A girl.’
She felt Paul move from her side. Mary held her breath until he appeared holding out their daughter. She gasped at the angry red wrinkled face. ‘She’s just like you,’ he said, laughing.
Mary stared at the furious face. She reminded her of her father. The child’s expression changed, colour draining as she struggled to breathe. Then, before anyone could move she coughed away her breathlessness and, to her mother, smiled.
If you want to catch up with her whole story, click here.