My grandfather passed away peacefully before dawn on Sunday morning, at 91 years of age. In recent months his health had declined, and he was moved to palliative care two Mondays ago. Before that though, he was still walking with the aid of a walker, and playing his organ in the nursing home. He enjoyed gardening and until moving into the nursing home last year, he kept a nice garden. He had birds of paradise flowers – I remember those.
As I wrote here, he was a beautiful writer of poetry. He gave me a book of his poems – Streets of High Summer, which was published by Em-press Books in Nottingham in 1982. The blurb states “This second collection of poems by N.E Findlay attempts to represent the varied qualities of his work, the earthen and the beautiful belonging together, a glimpse of the magic that can still be born of urban living”.
Reading his poetry has given me an insight into a man I never knew. His words make me feel that I wish I’d known these things about him. His creative and vivid imagination is brought to life through his words, and I see charming observations of both nature and people in his work.
I am glad that he was comfortable when he died. The nursing home and palliative care staff do a great job. My thoughts are with my Dad and my Aunty and cousins, Poppy’s brother who is 93, and his extended family. Also, my Mum who was incredibly patient and did so much for both my grandparents during their time in Australia, particularly when their health deteriorated.
I am also glad that he left this world with me having a more peaceful appreciation of what he was like through his words.
Here’s a poem he wrote. I will be reading at his funeral this Friday.
The five o’clock boat to Heaven
At the end of my life I will remember this shore, where the
outspread hands of a fig offered prayers. and this ancient bell
said goodbye, five times.
Slowly, how slowly the leaf moves, drifts out on the wide open
waters of Heaven, moved by a boatman so old, who wears in his bronze
the likeness of Christ.
Orange sigh flickers under the blue lids, apricot curls twist
in the grey clouds.
Gently, how gently the long oars dip to the silent calms, lifting
their gold from the cobalt bowl of the sea, and silence – such
silence, as though a whisper could be heard too far.
I drink with my eyes the final glory of Heaven, changing each silken
second from colour to colour, until I know in my heart that this is the
kind of death I have always wanted to live, where my lips
have sucked on the almighty words, and my soul was brimmed
From a seaway of sleep I come to a jade dark shore, where the light
is as pink as the rose itself, and the kneeling twigs of a tamarisk
beckon. Already a stained minaret pricks the dark side of sky, and
wears in its crown the seed of a solitary star.
The day you gave us this day, was a day that died
a beautiful death.
~ Norman Findlay, 15 August 1920 – 6 May 2012