UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

On the Tideline by Merryn Williams

Slowly, he came round.
He knew this was the Intensive Care Unit, but he'd been dreaming
of sixty years back, walking Yarmouth sands with his father,

who'd told him about Newton,
the discovery of light, how the seven colours
blend into white at last, and of how he had said:

I seem to myself to have been like a boy playing
next to the sea, picking up some bright shell or pebble
while before me the mighty ocean lay unexplored.

Three doctors sat round his bed.
They introduced themselves as specialists, so he knew
this was crunch time. One said:

'Good afternoon, Mr Smith.
A scientist, aren't you? Yes, a distinguished scientist.
Four days we've been reducing your medication

so you can understand what's going on. It isn't
good news, unfortunately. If we end the treatment
now, you will die. If we continue, you will

still die, some weeks or months from now. It would mean
kidney machines, exhaustion, a long struggle
and no good outcome. What do you wish us to do?'

Next to the German Ocean, his father had told him
the shells he liked to pick up were the hard casing
of creatures that lived in the sand or rocks, whose bodies

were washed out by the sea when they died. 'There is no God' -
he thought - 'but I can cope with that'. How the old man,
a parson, had grieved when he had made the decision

to follow truth step after logical step! He said:
'I prefer to die now, when I'm in control. Please take
that oxygen mask; it will not be needed'. The February light dribbled away.

The grandchildren came in,
in tears, prepared to argue. The girl, in particular, looked
like him. He thought, I'll walk into the darkness

open-eyed; the colours will not be lost, the atoms
regroup themselves. 'I am leaving', he said, and turned
to the ocean.