April 2011

The clocks in my granddad’s house stopped working after he died. I was lying on the sofa trying to make sense of what had happened when I noticed it was a few hours behind. Someone might have noticed it sooner on a normal day but today everyone was in various states of shock. I blinked at the frozen clock face for a moment and almost burst out laughing at the literary significance of it. It was like a real life symbol of how our lives had been paused. The clocks felt it too.

The night before, my grandma, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren piled in the room where granddad lay unconscious on the bed. His breathing was laboured and heavy. It looked like each breath took all his strength. It was hard to see him looking so fragile and powerless, the man who was the centre of our little solar system. We recited prayers under our breath, watching and waiting. The nurse came every so often to check on him and when asked she would tell us he didn’t have long left. Despite all this I didn’t actually think he was going to die. I feel bad saying it but we all thought grandma would go first; after all, she was more ill and had been for a long time. For ages afterwards I kept expecting him to walk through the door and for us to carry on as normal.

After the funeral, around fifty of us piled into granddad’s house and dispersed into different rooms. We were quiet. Sleep-deprived and grieving, no one had much to say. As I lay on the sofa before noticing the clock, I began to sort through my jumbled thoughts. I realised I wasn’t as sad as everyone else because reality hadn’t hit me yet. I kept expecting it to slam into me at some point but much later found that realisation comes piece by piece, until you realise you’re living life with acceptance. At first I went through the motions. I cried when he stopped breathing, I cried at the funeral, I cried when everyone else did. But during those first days I didn’t really feel anything. I kept asking myself: ‘is this what shock feels like?’ But it couldn’t have been because I didn’t even feel shocked. At least that would be something.

In hindsight, lying staring at the clock face was the perfect snapshot of what my granddad’s death did to me. I was living, but without going anywhere. If life is a road we all run down then I was stuck in a ditch on the side of it. Those first few days after his death I was going round in circles, keeping myself busy as the hours went by. Noticing the clock was a few hours behind interrupted what would have been a long train of thought. Of course in that moment I didn’t think that the clock was a symbol for how our lives had been paused. I thought that we’d have to get it fixed, then went into the kitchen to make tea.

This is a personal piece that I wrote for a non-fiction assignment. I was holding off posting it for a while because I wasn’t sure how I felt about people reading something so close to my heart, but today is the fourth anniversary of my granddad’s death and I feel it’s appropriate. So here’s a hazy memory of that period.