A Breath Before Dying is a long form poem which looks at the experience of someone you love having a progressive terminal illness. Setting it in the context of an enduring love affair intensifies the sense of what has been lost. The intangibility of the passion that once was lives as a ghost in only one memory and poignantly intrudes and disrupts the everyday of the survivor. The words and emotions evoked take us into the world of prolonged bereavement without death.
Life expectancy is uncertain. The remainder of our life span is decreasing continually. There'll come a time when all of us must leave here. Good health is simply the slowest way a human being can die. What happens when health fails and dignity is lost? Wealth cannot help us. We can be kept living, but just being alive is not living. The tragedy is that even our loved ones cannot help, no matter how we might plead with them or with anyone who can hear our voice.
All of us will have had heartache in our lives. One of the most heartrending moments of my life was to witness my late father's response to a dementia test. His diagnosis was vascular dementia. But by whatever name it goes, the sudden realisation of the extent of the faculties a loved one has lost tears the heart out of those who are a witness to it day to day. Only those who have gone through this most destructive experience truly understand how It affects their own lives and health.
Loss in life is inevitably hard to take. But loss while the other is still physically present can be the most painful. Until they are gone, until you know the outcome, there is no closure. But wishing an end to their indignity and distress, being helpless to grant their wish to end their life early, does not come without its own pernicious form of grief and guilt.