Simon Critchley On The Death Of His Father (From the Preface To The 2nd Edition of Very Little…Almost Nothing)

“My father’s last days were long and agonizing, where my mother, sister and I took turns to sit sleepless watching him drift in and out of awareness surrounded by the death-rattle of oxygen cylinders through which he kept trying to catch hold of the breath that was slowly leaving him. Having survived Christmas, as was his stubbornly-held wish, he was taken into the local hospice for respite care so that we could all take a break and get some sleep. As he was being lifted in the ambulance, he caught my eye and extended his hand. He held my hand in his for a few seconds and nodded without speaking. There was something definitive in this gesture. I drove back home, some 70 miles away, thinking of how bony and small his hand felt and how changed it was from the large and warm hands that I remembered from childhood. During that night, his condition worsened and early next morning my sister called me to say that he was dying. Driving like a fou, I missed his death by twenty minutes and found everyone gathered silently in the hospice waiting room. A nurse took me into see him and then left me alone. The room was unlit and sparsely furnished. In the pale winter light, he lay with a single sheet covering his corpse: tiny, withered and ravaged by cancer. I spent no more than five minutes alone with him, initially standing petrified, then sitting, and finally summoning up the courage to touch his cheek and nose and caress his forehead. It felt cool. So this is what death looks like, I thought. This is what my death will look like.”


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