Kathy Brand’s description of her son Max and their shared struggle with life in ‘Walks on the Margins’ has made me realise how fortunate Norman was to have all his mental faculties until the last few weeks of his life.
Norman could remember his life in minute detail; names, dates, events all stored in colourful descriptions in his memory, ready to share with anyone who had the time to listen. He just loved telling his stories, which made him a perfect person for writing his memoirs.
Only a week before he died we were talking on Skype and I was checking a few facts with him to make sure I got them right, but it wasn’t just his memory, it was his personality too.
Yes, he was quite stubborn at times and he was always right….not an uncommon trait…..but he was always a gentleman, polite, caring and thoughtful. Not only that but he had a sense of humour too.
Two weeks before Norman passed away suddenly he became stroppy and belligerent and to be honest with you, sometimes downright rude. Why the sudden change?
In the last few months he’d had a few health scares, problems with his breathing mainly, a couple of times when the paramedics were called in. They were able to stabilize him but did these shocks damage his system in any way, maybe reducing oxygen to the brain?
Many close to him felt the change came with the increased and mixture of medication. His doctor was so patient, always willing to come out to him if he needed it, but do we really know the effects of the cocktail of drugs many elderly people are on? I’m not so sure. Each drug is chosen for a perfectly valid reason but have they been trialed together in all the varied combinations?
It could be that he knew he was coming to the end of his life, and yet he was already planning Christmas and New Year, a couple of weeks away. When in hospital he certainly seemed ready ‘to go’ and told the nurses off in no uncertain terms for keeping him alive.
I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and will never know. All I do know is that Norman was fortunate to enjoy good health for the majority of his life, including his mental faculties. We will remember Norman as he was before, all 103 years of his life. (since he’s shared his story with us)
Nevertheless, this experience has given me empathy for the heartbreak of watching a loved one change in a negative way. It has taught me that there are always more questions than answers and sometimes we just need to let them go and be thankful. Norman was truly blessed.