Back in 1994, I was still going out with my ex-boyfriend. I was very close to his family, in particular his dad, Richard, who was like another Dad to me. Richard and I used to sit and chat for hours about anything; we used to cook together and discuss why his son was such a git to me sometimes (ok so it was really all the time - hence him being an ex!). I was also just about to go into my final year at Uni at this point too and Richard was forever nagging me to do well.
During the first half term of my final year, Richard received a letter from Hull Royal Infirmary inviting him in for tests. He had experienced problems with his hands, and kept losing power in them. At various points he could not turn the key in the ignition in the car.
As soon as I saw the letter, I had a really bad feeling, but could not tell anyone about it, because i hoped that I had got it wrong.
Richard duly spent a week in hospital having the tests done, in between his best efforts to sneak out to the pub! At the end of that week he was told that he had got the accelerated form of Motor Neurone Disease and that he would have a year to 18 months to live at the most.
We discussed his illness at various times and he asked my opinion about his option of suicide. I told him that I would support any decision that he made and would always love him, no matter what. That, because he was going to die anyway, he had the right to choose how he died. Also that, in the same circumstances, I would probably do the same thing myself.
I then asked him promise if, when he died and got to wherever he was supposed to go, he would come back and let me know that he was OK. He promised me that he would.
The following March, I had been to Paris on a field trip. When I returned, everything seemed OK and Richard and I had a similar discussion about suicide. He did not go into too much detail, just asked my opinion again and I gave the same response that I had before. On the Wednesday night, as I was going to bed, I felt a prescence in my room. I talked to it and asked if it was Richard and said that I hoped that he was OK and had not died. I told the presence that, if it was Richard, that I loved him very much and would always love him. Also that if he was dead, that I hoped that he was at peace and happy. Then I went to sleep.
The following day, I kept wanting to ring Richard's home and even dialled the number a couple of times, but each time put the phone down before it rang. On the Friday, I went to meet my boyfriend at his place in Leeds. As I arrived, he asked me to sit down and told me that his Dad had disappeared late on Wednesday night. The police had conducted a full search of the area, due to the circumstances, but had been unable to find a trace of him. They suspected that he had gone into the river, in which case his body would not surface for 4-5 weeks and that there was a possibility that it would never surface.
During the following five weeks, we all tried to carry on with life as normal. I had to complete my coursework and dissertation and did so at Richard's house. This was so I could help his wife out as she had just been into hospital to have her gall bladder removed also so I could study for my finals etc in peace. On one occasion, I was working at the PC and took a break to play cards. After a while I felt someone stand behind me and tickle the back of my neck, but there was nobody there. I said 'OK Richard, I will get on with my dissertation', and flicked back on to the Word processor. As soon as I did so, the presence vanished.
At the end of the five weeks, my boyfriend and I cycled along the river bank and stopped at various points to admire the view. I looked at the River and, inside my mind, shouted at the top of my voice 'give him back!'. I couldn't shout out loud, my boyfriend would not have understood.
The next evening, the coroner arrived at the house to tell us that they had found a body, which was later identified as Richard's.
A week later, we all attended the cremation and thanksgiving service. Richard didn't want any of us to be unhappy that he had died. He wanted us to celebrate the fact that he had had a wonderful life. I am still doing that. I think of him with very fond memories, sometimes I am sad, but most of the time I smile when I think of him. He still pops back to visit me every now and then - just to say hi! then he goes away again.
Antonia, Wiltshire, UK.
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