We had of course already had midsummer at the weekend. Christmas Day was a Wednesday and we were sitting in bed just watching videos, reading, playing games, etc. Just a weekendy type of day and enjoying that Daniel didn’t have to go to work and wouldn’t have to for another week or so. Abigail and Kristian were both doing things but weren’t too noisy and weren’t disturbing us. Stephanie was at Dean’s, so that she could have Christmas with him and his family as well as having had midsummer with us and my mum.
So, it wasn’t odd when Daniel’s phone rang, we often spoke to Allan on the weekend and especially on special occasions like Christmas. It wasn’t Allan though, it was Nikki, and although we don’t often speak to her it wasn’t immediately alarming that she was calling us because it was Christmas. So Daniel answered brightly with “Hi Nik! Merry Christmas!” And then she started talking, and he went quiet and stopped smiling.
Abigail had heard the phone ring and come in to say hello to Grandad. She was shushed away and told to come back in a few minutes. Daniel listened to Nikki for a bit and then thanked her for calling and they said bye.
I knew it was going to be something bad but I thought maybe he was sick or in hospital or maybe someone else was. But after trying multiple times through the day to call Allan and finding out that Lee had also been trying to chat to him but had been unable, they started to get really worried. (Being the 24th of December, it was the main celebratory day, per Danish tradition.) So Nikki called Pat and John since they live a lot closer to Lincoln and asked if they might be able to go over to check on him since he’d not answered his phone all day. It was already evening by this stage and they were out somewhere and had to then drive to Allan’s, so it was quite late at night by the time they got there. They have a key because they helped him look after Lisa a lot when she was sick and also because it’s always a good idea for someone to have a key to your house in case something happens to you..
He was in his bed. They called the ambulance and everything but it was clear that he had already been gone for some time. We thought that it was likely that his abdominal aortal aneurysm had ruptured, as he had been getting monitored for it regularly and it had been slowly growing. He told us that the doctors had said that usually they would operate at 5cm but a lot of stuff in the NHS was in a state of uncertainly due to the mess of Brexit so they now had a guideline of 6cm for surgery. After the last check up he told us it was at 5.8cm. It was something we were keen for him to be able to get fixed, because while he had it he was unable to travel, especially by air; and he had decided that he was going to try to come here but was unable to make any proper plans for it because of the AAA. So I think most of us thought it had been the aneurysm, but we wouldn’t know for sure until after his post-mortem examination. We were aware that it was Christmas Day and then Boxing Day and didn’t expect that would happen immediately, but I myself thought that they’d be open the next day (Friday, 27th December) because services like that are pretty essentially and only close for the minimum public holidays, right?
So, so wrong. Turned out the coroner’s office was closed for Christmas and New Year and wouldn’t be open again until some time in the first week of January. But it’s ok, I thought. It’s just a few extra days and he’ll have to be one of the first to be processed since he has to be one of the first to have come in after they closed, having died on the 24th of December.
It wasn’t because we were anxious to be certain about the cause of death – I actually don’t think most of us considered it likely at all that it would have been anything but the aneurysm – but because we had a difficult situation to coordinate where three of his children were in one country and one was in another, Christmas and New Year are notoriously uncool times to travel, especially when it’s “last minute” and we needed to try to plan when a funeral could be and how to get there and we could not even begin to do this without the death certificate which wouldn’t happen until after the post-mortem. To add to the frustration, Daniel was already off work this whole time as his office was closed between Christmas and New Year (but it’s not like they’re performing an essential service to the community) so it felt like wasted time that could have been used when he already wasn’t at work, saving us some of his holiday time as well as the fact that his father had just died putting rather a damper on fully enjoying the time off that he did have.
So then the few extra days passed into the start of January and it emerged that he wasn’t “first cab off the rank” or even anywhere near the top of the list because the whole “closing for Christmas and New Year” had actually started a couple of weeks before Christmas and as such they already had several weeks worth of autopsy back log to get through. This whole thing left me so frustrated and incredulous that a public service can be run in that way. If it is determined that a person needs an autopsy, then you cannot hold a funeral or burial or whatever it is you want to do until after that is done. For us, it was frustrating and annoying and drew out something that felt like it should have been able to be handled and managed and put to rest so much more quickly and smoothly. I’m pretty sure that there are other religions and faiths, though, that have strict guidelines on how and when certain rites should be performed following death and I can’t imagine how distressing it must be if you are unable to observe those because the coroner’s office has been closed for over a month and has a lot of bodies to get through. As it turns out, this seems to be the way a lot of government services operate in the UK. It shocked me and made me glad again and again that we chose Australia, even though it is far from perfect.
I need to back track a bit. After Daniel finished talking to Nikki, he basically repeated to me what she’d told him. He was clearly shocked, it was just so unexpected. We all were, really. I cried and I hugged him and then I took a deep breath and went out to talk to Abigail and Kristian because I knew they would be waiting, and of course I was not going to make him have to do that.
Twice now I have had to tell them that a grandparent has died and it is the most horrible thing to do. This was especially harder because they are older and have had more of a relationship with Allan than they did with Lisa. They too were waiting and hoping for the day that he would come back here, and stay. Grandad was funny and silly and a little bit spoiling them but also firm with rules, all the things that Grandads are meant to be. He was the only one they had and I hated having to tell them that he was gone.
Then there was Stephanie. Being that much older than Abigail and Kristian, she had spent more time with both of her paternal grandparents than they had and I knew she would be devastated. And unlike us who weren’t doing anything on Christmas morning, she was. She was with Dean’s family and they were doing the whole thing. Nikki and Chris decided that they were not going to tell Alice, Sam and Max until Boxing Day so as to not take way the joy of Christmas from them, and I don’t judge them for making that choice, but I did not feel like it was an option for me. So I called Dean’s phone, so that I could give him a forewarning that I was about to break Stephanie’s heart and to be ready to catch it. I don’t know if it was worse telling Abigail and Kristian in person or telling Stephanie on the phone. She was sobbing, big heaving gasps and I could see her in my mind and I hated having to do that to her but someone had to and I knew that she would ultimately prefer to know immediately rather than later. I was glad she had Dean there, and the festivities of Christmas with his family to try to take her mind off it a bit.
It ended up being the 16th of January before the post-mortem was done and his body was released to the undertakers. 23 days. Personally I think that is disgusting but also I have absolutely no control over anything so no one gives a shit about my opinion. It also turned out that it was not the aneurysm, but a stroke while he slept that bled out into his brain. When we were cleaning things up in his house, we cleared up a lot of his medication and some of what he was taking were blood thinners, so it was kind of inevitable I guess that any blood loss where he didn’t have immediate medical attention was going to be fatal. There was a bit of comfort in knowing that he was asleep while it all happened and likely wasn’t aware of any pain. In a way, it was kind of a relief that it wasn’t the aneurysm, because I didn’t know what the situation would be then. We knew that he had been waiting for surgery and it had been pushed back and the prerequisites changed, and the thought that he might have died from something that he should have been able to have fixed but hadn’t because of a bunch of political bullshit made me angry. But again, I don’t know what anyone would have done about it, anyway. .
Eventually the funeral was set for Tuesday, 11th February and Daniel and I arranged to go to England for two weeks, to help with sorting and clearing out the house and to then be at the funeral. We went on the 1st of February and Stephanie and Dean stayed here to be in charge of Abigail and Kristian while we were gone.