It was hurricane season in the North of Germany and Seosamh and I were waiting in Hamburg for Pat to arrive. First, her flight was re-routed to Amsterdam, then her train was re-routed to Cologne, and when she finally arrived at around 2pm, Seosamh and I had been evicted from the last late night pub we had found, and we were both fast asleep. What a night!
Seosamh visited Pádraig in Hamburg regularly. He always brought little, really thoughtful presents with him. Some presents were rather big, some were so precious, they were put up as a semi-permanent loan. Until we returned it to him when we were all hoping for a bit of a miracle. This time not for Pádraig. But for the man himself.
Seosamh was there for Pádraig. Doing small subversive stuff. He (re-)introduced food and drink to him we wouldn’t have dared to give to Pádraig at the time because we would have been too afraid that he might not be able to swallow them safely. But what can you do when a guest brings along really nice cream cakes or exotic salads and paella prepared by Seosamh’s Spanish friend? And, of course, Pádraig enjoyed that subversiveness immensely, as well as that delicious food.
At times, stories surfaced which, I was assured, were just scratching the tip of the iceberg. They gave a hint of a life I had never been privy to, but explained why Pádraig, on a given morning, once a week, cooked his Irish Breakfast downstairs in the kitchen just after his return home, when I was getting up to bring his sister to early morning swimming sessions. Those nights must have been magic.
Seosamh visited Pádraig, when he had one of those days off from hospital. Pádraig went to see Seosamh in hospital and in the hospice. Yesterday morning was the last time he went to see him. We knew this would be a last ‘slán’, a good-bye, a see you again until the day we meet again, when we’ll have left all our troubles behind.
Last night, Seosamh sadly died. He went ahead of us.
While Seosamh’s physical presence will be very sadly missed, we will never miss his very unique, subversive, kind, caring and human spirit. That will always stay with us and help us through sad and difficult days.
I passed the day in Dusseldorf at RehaCare in some kind of parallel universe. My talk with my friends from Pforzheim went well. Several families came up afterwards and told us about their experiences. One with a son of 28 who had had an accident at 23 – as Pádraig had. Another one with a young son who had had an accident just one year ago. They were still struggling with doctors and a system that seemed to be more interested in keeping the status quo then helping their son’s rehabilitation. They were all horror stories, all too familiar.
On the positive side, I had a chance to talk to companies developing different types of communication systems, building wheelchairs with the big wheel in front so that the chair can more easily navigate more difficult terrain, manufacturing wheelchair-friendly clothes and covers, and building wheelchair-friendly camper vans with ingenious solutions for the bathroom, beds and seating arrangements. While they are pretty expensive to build, they are available at a reasonable price to rent, not more than the rental of a wheelchair accessible small van would cost.
I know that there are people doing stuff like this all the time. But I am still amazed that all this happened in just one day.