Getting to know each other
I met John (not his real name) when he was living in a unit in a retirement village in Warrnambool. He was in his early 70s, single and had shifted from his dairy farm recently due to his ill health.
John was of a man who was always happy and enjoyed and made the most of his life. He was a member of a local band and the football club, a real people’s person. He enjoyed friendly banter and a joke and it was a pleasure to visit him. John could take as much as he gave and enjoyed it. He had throat and facial cancer. The facial cancer had put a hole in his left cheek which made it difficult at times to take food and drink. His cancer was terminal. John was unable to speak so communication was with me talking and him writing. Naturally, being the person he was, this was shattering however he never let it beat him. About the only thing that kept him going was his beloved football team and a few stubbies, although he never drank to excess.
Over time we became mates
Over a period of time I felt that I was a mate to John. He would give me his bank card so, I could pay his accounts and make purchases on his behalf. Of course, I would either tell him I would be back in a week after a holiday or I would visit Dan Murphy’s. Near the end of his time at his unit he did not drive so I would buy his stubbies for him and secrete them into his unit to avoid the busy bodies. I always got a big grin and the thumbs up except if I told him I bought a brand he disliked. We did go for drives however John was self-conscious of his face so never left the car.
On his birthday I decorated his unit with Geelong balloons and broke the rules and brought a couple of stubbies to have with him.
A request for new dentures
After a few weeks John asked me to take him to the hospital dentist to get new dentures. I was amazed, here was a man who was dying with only weeks, at best months to live wanting a new denture. It made me realise how strong is the will to live. It was his call and so we went to the dentist. We had about three visits which involved early fittings of a plate. I could see that this was extremely painful but he persevered with the treatment. The dental staff were very compassionate with him however after those three visits the dentist had to inform him that he could not complete the plate due to the disfigurement of his face from the cancer. I know this was a setback for John but he fought on. Mind you he could still swallow a stubby.
A celebration of life
John’s health deteriorated, so much so that he was admitted to the palliative care ward. Being confined didn’t suit him but he copped it on the chin. He shared his final will with me which was a privilege to think we had formed that close a relationship, naturally that information remained confidential. I felt as if I was his brother. Little by little he deteriorated until he finally passed away.
True to his way of life John’s funeral was a celebration finishing at his beloved Football Club, at the bar named in his honour. His shout of course!