I watched him pass away whilst holding hands with his wife.
Mr B was in his 90s. He had Alzheimer's. I'd known him and his wife for nearly 5 years. I'd met their family members, cooked, shopped and supported them and had the privilege of taking them on holiday on 4 occasions. I would take Mr B out regularly for 3 hours every week to give Mrs B, who is also in her 90's and his primary carer, a break.
Mr B was an extremely intelligent, courteous, kind and witty man. He came from a humble background and won a scholarship to Cambridge. He was a scientist. He was well travelled and loved to talk about his time in the West Indies.
He was well read and articulate and had a wicked sense of humour. We got on like a house on fire and there were many times I would have to stop the car because I was laughing so hard at some witticism he'd come out with. He would quote Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and many others and would astound me with his love and understanding of the English language. We had spoken spelling quizzes, which he would normally win, with words like evocative, rhythm, aneurysm.
He loved to tell jokes and limericks and I never ceased to love watching his face just before he delivered the punchline!
Mr B was fiercely independent and hated being helped in any way, so I had to find ways to support him without him knowing it was happening. I would pretend I couldn't get my coat on or do my buttons up without a bit of help and it would make it so much easier for me to reciprocate when he struggled in the same way. His balance was poor, as was his eyesight, and he was often at risk of tripping over the kerb, so I used to ask if I could take his arm when we crossed a road and said that I had a dodgy knee and felt safer holding on to someone. It never failed.
As his Alzheimer's progressed he would repeat himself more often, but never lost his wry sense of fun and he always had impeccable manners. He held doors open, let ladies go first and ensured that we walked on the inside of the pavement so we were safe from the traffic.
I learned such a lot with Mr B.
I learned that it is possible to listen to the same story 10 or 12 times in a row and respond differently each time simply because it gave Mr B so much pleasure to tell the story.
I learned how important it was for Mrs B to have a few hours to herself, to have a break from the relentlessness of Alzheimer's.
About 5 weeks ago Mr B fell and broke his hip. He underwent an operation, sustained two infections in the wound and became extremely agitated and confused with all the tubes coming out of his body. His marvellous wife was at his side all day every day. He slowly stopped eating, drinking and swallowing and was eventually moved to a hospice. All the tubes were removed and he was much more comfortable.
On the day he died I went to see him. His wife and I stood either side of the bed holding hands over him and reminiscing about some of the holidays we'd had together. He took two breaths and then became very still. It was extremely peaceful. Somehow it wasn't sad...it was right for him to go.
Mrs B looked at me with a beautiful smile on her face and said how much she appreciated my being there and that she thought he was waiting for the right people to be with him when he died. She also said that she would always be grateful for the support she'd received from the small team of caregivers from HomeInstead that had enabled her husband to stay at home for as long as he did. She said that the company was marvellous.
I was only there for 15 mins, but they were such precious minutes.
I will never forget the times I had with Mr B.
I will always smile when I think of him.
I will, of course, miss our times together but I am also glad he's no longer struggling with the indignity of Alzheimer's.
I'm not saying it's easy, but it is an enormous moment and a real privilege to be with someone at the end of their life.
RIP Mr B