Prayers for My Father I was with him, back then, on a cold, wet and windy night in early September – a night for ghosts and giving up, yet also for some peace in the going – a release from long, slow sickness and the hours in which this vital, dramatic man had dwindled to skin and bone with barely a voice or breath, as he lay helpless under the bedspread and a few late-summer flies gathering like jackals on the ceiling. Mother had just pulled me out of a groggy sleep, her urgent voice like a tow line that dragged me into her room. She handed me a red book and hurried downstairs to the telephone to spread the expected news. I knelt down and mumbled a few prayers for the dying, watching him in his gaunt stillness while I held on to the book as if it were the cup of salvation. I paused; there was one more breath – a short, halting puff of air as his lungs pushed up and out, then fell back into his body like a tired old bellows, or someone shifting to a deeper sleep. The room, too, seemed to take a breath as if to honour his passage – the brief but graceful farewell of spirits gathered in a sacred space, before they settled into a silence as deep as the holiest prayer you could imagine.
© John Morris