Take my breath away



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.

First Breath

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.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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24 Responses to Take my breath away

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Beautiful and touching post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ali Isaac says:

    Beautiful, emotional, bittersweet… A touching and heartwarming piece of writing, Geoffle. You are a man of contrast. I’m sorry for the loss of Blitz, and for Charli’s loss too. The wheel turns…

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I’ve concluded that the expression ‘time is a healer’ is bunkum. All time does is overlays other experiences through which grief us experienced. It is buried but still capable of resurfacing. It’s the same with my parents just as much my dog. Thanks Ali.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ali Isaac says:

        Well I haven’t lost anyone precious to me yet, but from what I have seen, people do not ‘recover’ from their grief, therefore they are not healed, by time or anything else. The way I see it, its more pain you just have to learn to live with, and you have good days and bad days, just like with any other pain. I don’t know how to do that. I guess none of us do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        I think that is true. Like a lot of chronic pain you try and develop strategies that work most of the time. But you do get caught out.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. New Journey says:

    Last breaths….finality, gone, never to speak again….I was with my mother, so difficult…the pain still cuts deep….sorry for your loss

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      And me for yours. I’m never sure why people seem to underplay the loss of a parent as an adult. I’m now an orphan and there are times when that really hurts, yet I wonder if people realise that. All the best.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Breathless | willowdot21

  5. Aw Geoff, you nutter, if only you could see how perfect that was for Blitz, so natural. Bless.
    I have a lovely story about my uncle, whose end at home I was privileged to be present at, together with my dear aunt and the two dogs. So right. Of course one of the dogs showed no respect whatever and trotted about happily, smiling away..!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A lovely touching post, Geoff. Makes me think what is ahead of me. I know it is only a matter of time before my mother departs this world. Each day she gets a little weaker and only yesterday, while she lay asleep, I said to her “I wish I could do more, mum.” Hopefully she knows that anyway.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TanGental says:

      My mum went quickly in the end but before the final coma she opened her eyes, smiled a toothless smile and lisped ‘hello darling’. That smile must have been such an effort and it as precious as any memory.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Charli Mills says:

    Touching post, Geoff. Thank you for your deep understanding. You’ve said it before about adult orphans and my focus shifted, after Kate died, to her two daughters (adults, but motherless nonetheless). I also realized that there is little about bereavement for a best friend. I’ve become a weeding fiend, needing to work outside. Good thing I have lots of weeds on this spread. Like you, I went through a dog’s sudden death and it was my son-in-law who did mouth to mouth. What a natural thing, really, to give a beloved (family, friend or pet) breath. You honor your parents’ memories through your stories that many of us enjoy. While I won’t write so much about Kate, I hope to share stories with her grandchildren, to be a memory box for them. To tell her youngest granddaughter how she brought great comfort to her grandmother in the hospital (Kate would relax as the baby slept on her chest; and after Kate passed, I began to sleep naps with the baby on my chest and it felt so comforting).

    Mary’s life is one gasp or grimace after another! Maybe that’s why she’s a good character — she seems real in the midst of her circumstances. A breathless moment at the end, but a relieved outcome. And I am a believer in baby smiles!

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      oh boy, have I missed a Charli analysis! Yep, babes on chests! Perfect. And others have tied the canine cpr. Who’d have thought it? And yes, you will be a treasure trove I’m certain.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Norah says:

    Yes, a lovely post, Geoff. I, too, am an orphan. My Dad passed 16 years ago, and my Mum just last year. There are still things of think of telling them, Mum especially. My sister passed far too young after far too painful a life twenty years ago. She was just thirty-five. The pain never ceases, nor time erase. But the hopeful breath in your flash in Mary’s life is beautiful. She has had her share of less pleasant things. I hope the baby brings her joy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sherri says:

    Beautifully written Geoff, as I would fully expect. I love the soft rise and fall of the tension in your flash – no, it can’t be – and then, the smile. Phew! You are a master at this.
    Ahh…the pain of loss is with us always isn’t it? We just learn how to live with it and carry on, making the most of our days here on this crazy planet while we remember our loved ones and tell their stories…
    And I am so sorry about Blitz. I remember the day we lost our Bonnie, our 14 year old Lab/Collie on the eve of eldest son’s 16th birthday. It was sudden too and unexpected, but it was her time. She was essentially my son’s dog. I will never forget the two of us sitting there, huddled over Bonnie, wrapped in a blanket, wondering what on earth to do, my man/child son sobbing his heart out. But I think you will appreciate this little story: poor Bonnie, lying there, taking her final breath as we both knelt down by her side, gently stroking her head talking to her, and so she was peaceful and calm. I felt her heartbeat until the last. And then, at the very end, her front legs shot up, making us both jump out of our skin. Bonnie’s last leap into the open. And so we smile at this last memory of our sweet Bonnie who gave us so many years of joy and companionship 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I love that picture of her last leap. Our daughter was away in Portugal with friends and we didn’t tell her. She was due home at 2am and we hoped she’d just creep to bed so we could explain in the morning but she sensed the empty mp kitchen came into outer room and asked where’s Blitz. Even as I climbed out she was on the floor sobbing. It is so tough, losing something so precious and as a parent you can do nothing which is equally hard. Perhaps the most painful of all hard wired instincts is that to protect your young and yet you fail in it constantly.

      Liked by 1 person

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