Lying in death’s bed

Sunday columnist Peter Leith is 90 and describes himself as “half-deaf and half-blind”. But he sees and hears a lot – more than many of us with full use of our eyes and ears.


I recently spent a night in hospital after having an angiogram. At my age, they like to make sure that there is no “post-procedural reaction”. Good thinking. I am all in favour of taking good care of me!

A week or so later, I went into the same hospital to have my 13-year-old pacemaker removed and a new one installed.

By coincidence, I was put into the same four-bed ward that I was in before. This time, I was put in the bed diagonally opposite the one I had previously occupied.

That was the bed in which a man three years older than me died during the night. I wrote about it in ‘Makes you think’.

His two sons, both tradies in their 60s, had sat beside his bed, talking with each other and trying to talk to him. Occasionally, he muttered a response, called out loudly and breathed laboriously.

They left about 7pm, promising to visit again “tomorrow”. Their father continued to mutter, breathe heavily and call out occasionally.

I woke around midnight to see hospital staff around his bed. When they left, they had pulled the sheet over his face.

I woke again about 2am to see two nurses stripping the bed, wiping it down with disinfectant and remaking it.

That memory was never far from my thoughts during the four days and four nights that I spent in that bed during my most recent visit.

Lucky me. Not many people are given the chance to lie – more than once – in their ‘deathbed’.

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Written by Peter Leith

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