Last Thursday started grey and dull. In the morning I was busy with some design work, at lunch time I went to look at a couple of houses for sale. In the afternoon I rang the hospital as Dad was about to go to surgery. He had broken his hip a couple of days before in a silly fall, just missed the edge of his chair as he was sitting down.. we’ve all done it!. At 6 the sky had cleared the evening was beautiful. I walked east, along the shore line, through the wood and up to the road.
Half way there I heard the geese coming. They flew overhead noisy and low. Just in small groups but all heading the same way. I followed them up to the top field. There in the low sun was a convocation of geese, a great noisy wonderful gathering. They flew in from every direction, in pairs, in groups of 6 or 7, in small arrow shaped flights, lone birds and stragglers. The sun caught their wings as they circled for landing. They kept coming and coming. I searched for my white goose, the single white goose I had seen the other day, but it was not there. Gone home perhaps, back to the farmyard after its taste of freedom? I stayed to watch for a while before turning west to go home.
Banks of night clouds had built up over the water and a lowering red sun was picking out the details of their puckered and ribbed underbellies. Great shafts of light soared up between them into the sky like lasers. It was a beautiful evening.
At 7 I rang the hospital again. Dad was fine, out of surgery if a bit groggy, nothing to worry about, all went well etc etc.. but then at 9, a call from them.
I got there in time. In time to hold onto his hand, to kiss his cheek, stroke his hair and tell him how special he was. I wish I could say it was a graceful and gentle slipping away, it was not. It was a battle, but one he could not win this time.
The nurse was wonderful. I went to make some calls and returned to find a white flower placed over his heart. “I’ve opened the window” she said, “ Just my little ritual”.
I thought about my white goose. Perhaps, being a knowing bird, it had winged its way north, waiting patiently, hour on hour, to do me one last service, to carry the indomitable spirit of a good and much loved man up, up, up and away.