Thursday, 5 January 2012

Thursday 5 January 2012

Jasper Horatio Stafford died at 17:15 today.

A fuller tribute to him will follow.  For now, my heart is not so much broken - but completely shattered.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Another dictated post.  I continue to weaken.

My partner managed to talk me out of dictating a strongly-worded letter to the Bishop regarding the incident in the churchyard yesterday evening.

Alas, I have not the strength to write the entry alluded to last evening.  Perhaps my partner will share it after I... well, another time anyway.

I have been able to swallow some nourishing oxtail soup this evening - most delicious, but I fear the time for deriving nourishment from Earthly food is past.

The ongoing rattle, to which Edward the Rottweiler alluded in our recent conversation, has grown more pronounced.  It has a Latin name:  Mors Crepitant.

I saw Kipper again today.  He was accompanied by more of my friends from former times.  With a wagging tail, I recognised Rex from the rescue home.  Rats was there too.  A jolt of alarm dashed through me as I looked about me to see if I could spot my late wife, Isolde, and saw her standing a short way off - in the company of my other late wife, Ellie, and my former girlfriend Candy.
"Quick, Kip!  Hide me!" I yelped, "I'm toast if they see me!"
But Kipper just laughed.
"It's alright Jazz." he smiled, kindly. "It's alright.  Only love, forgiveness and peace are waiting for you here.  Don't be afraid - you have lived the worthy life of a good boy."  He smiled again and wagged his bushy caramel-coloured tail with its quirky white tip.  As I grew relaxed and tranquil once more, Kipper glanced behind him at some larger, shadowy and indistinct forms, which were moving in the background.  I could not identify individuals, but the shapes were unmistakeable.
"There are people in Heaven too?!" I gasped, incredulously, for I am not deceived as to why Kipper and my friends were coming to greet me.  I have been many things in my life, but a fool I never was.
Kipper nodded.
"One, perhaps, above others in love and greatness - but you have nothing to fear from any of them.  Trust me.  There is no pain here.  No despair."

"I trust you Kipper." I replied.  "No pain."

He nodded and smiled again as he and my other friends faded from view.

My partner is beside herself in her agonies - above all, she dreads having to make "the decision" and desperately hopes that nature may peacefully take its course.  In her desperation, however, she found this little poem on this wonderful resource which has given me a voice - the internet (edits and emphasis are my own):

If it should be that I grow frail and weak - and pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.
You will be sad -  I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For this day, more than all the rest, your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You would not want me to suffer so.
When my time comes, please, let me go.
Take me where my needs they'll tend,
Promise to stay with me until the end
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time you will agree
This is a kindness you do for me.
Please don't grieve - it must be you
Who must decide this thing to do;

We've been so close -- we two -- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.

        ~(Author unknown.  Annotated by Jasper Horatio Stafford)~

I will post again here shortly - whether it is to say that I am momentarily spared, or whether it is to take my leave of you.  But I beg you.  No tears.  No tears for me.  I am not afraid - and I am thankful.

Trust me - I am thankful, truly thankful.  And I welcome this new stage of my life, which will bring me the peace that passes all understanding.

I was born into anonymity, sold into misery and saved from untimely death.  Now I fall prey to cancer, that silent, abhorrent and unworthy killer.  But - for a brief, shining, moment in between these extremities I lived.

I really, truly, LIVED.  For all-too-short a time I was Jasper Horatio Stafford.  And what an honour that has been.

I hear the beginnings of a whisper... "In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus et Sancti..."

No tears.

Good night.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Back to work today for my partner and I, amidst some of the worst storms I can recall.  Wind and rain lashed down, houses lost power, trees fell all over the place - but, a few short hours later, all was calm.  The sun even peeped out for a while.  But it sounds like the wind is getting up again, so my partner has seen me guarded against the cold with a thick blanket around my shoulders now that I have dined.

Before I proceed any further, I must apologise to those dear friends who have been in touch with me.  I am sorry that I have been the cause of spilled tears.  It is not my intention to cast grief amongst anyone - my partner will, indeed, be bereft when I am gone; but I have had a long, mostly happy and very full life.  I have enjoyed a stage career, shared my thoughts, hopes, mishaps and opinions with you via this blog, penned a regular monthly column in a local magazine and have delighted in all of my manifold friendships - including this one which I share with you, dear reader.  Truly I have been blessed far beyond what I had any right to deserve.  I had to bark these words to Eddie and Angus, who bounded across the road to see me when my partner and I were surveying our garden for potential tree-damage, just after we returned from work.  Both Rottweilers looked red-eyed, but I hailed them most heartily.
"Evening boys!" I barked.  "All well?!"
"Tolerably so, I thank you, dearheart." replied Eddie, before Angus burst out
"Oh, dearest Jazz!  Edward has told me all about your illness!  I am SO sorry - you have always been a good friend to us.  Is there anything we can do?"  Before I had a chance to respond, Eddie cut in.
"Yes!" he barked, "We wanted to offer you something to ease you in your extremity.  Angus thought you might like a fruit basket - but I wondered if you may prefer a selection of continental meats?"

A-thousand-and-one double-entendres flashed through my mind concerning Edward, Angus, fruits and continental meats, all of which I ignored (not without great effort), as my two friends were being very sincere in their affection and I did not wish to offend.  I contented myself with responding that their friendship and continued good-humour was better than any bodily comfort, and assured them of my gratitude for their continuing amity.  My partner is ensuring that I have the most delicious of fresh-cooked meats and morsels to sustain me in my frailty - I cannot manage any more than what she offers and it would distress me to see delicious gifts going to waste.  The two Rottweilers were happy with this response and tottered back to Eddie's house much more content than when they left it.

If only they had known that I was very nearly hastened to my end a little earlier this evening.  My partner needed to visit a shop in our small town to collect something, in between out return from our workplace and our arrival at home.  She found a parking space in the road leading to the train station and we took a short-cut  through the graveyard to the shops.

Never again, my friends, never again.

As we walked along the dark path, all of a sudden a brightly-lit spectre loomed up before me, swaying gently amidst the grey and ageing stone tablets.

"Ahhhrrrrrrrgggaaaaaahhhhh!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.  I fell to the ground in front of the shining apparition. "OhHolyMaryMotherofGod, OhJesusandHisBlessedSaints, OhHolyMa-"

"JASPER!" shouted my partner, hauling me to my feet as I wailed and quaked before the spectre.  A moment's secondary glance led me to feel more foolish than I have done for quite a considerable time.

Someone - for reasons best known to themselves - had strung a load of white Christmas fairy-lights around a large gravestone.  They were brightly shining in the darkness and swaying in the increasingly strong breeze.  Why?  In what world is this a good idea?!

I grew gradually calmer - but it took an intense cuddle lasting almost ten minutes, six slices of cooked chicken-breast and a quantity of breaded-ham before I stopped whimpering entirely.  I am going to ask my partner if I can sleep with the bedroom light on tonight.

Tomorrow - a tale of humiliation and debasement from my past, with which to entertain you (although possibly not, if you are a gentleman reader...).

Good night.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Monday 2 January 2012

"What's that dreadful rattling sound?"  asked Eddie the Rottweiler.
"Erm..." I hesitated and then sighed heavily.
"There it is again!"  Edward looked at me, frowning.  "It's not - it isn't coming from you, is it Jazz?"
I looked up at him.  "It is!"  he barked.  "It is coming from you!  Whatever are you doing?!  You're not channelling the spirit of some ghastly hell-cat, are you darling?!"
"Actually, Ed., I'm not that well these days.  Very poorly indeed, if I'm honest."  I took a deep breath.  "I've got cancer, Ed.  I'm dying."
"No!" gasped the Rottweiler.  "No, no, no!  I mean, I know that you've been losing a lot of weight lately - I thought you were trying to set a good example to dear Angus..."
I smiled sadly.  "Well, what are you waiting for?!"  continued Edward, his lip trembling, "You've got to get yourself to a hospital!  Get it out; get it out of you now!"
"I can't." I replied. "It's too late.  There's nothing anyone can do."
Eddie was temporarily rendered speechless - quite a feat for any dog, as Ed generally always had some (usually scathing) comment to make.

"How long?" he whispered after a while.  "Have they said?"
"Um, about two months..." I began.
"Two months!" spluttered Eddie,  "Two months!  J*s*s, Jasper, you've known about this for two months?!  Why the h*ll didn't you come and scratch at my door - or at least leave a weemail on my fence?!"
"Ed - no - "
"I mean, I don't know what I could have done, but I'd have tried to do something for you!"
"Eddie, no, it's - "
"Angus's human companion is a nurse - we could have got you - "
Finally, I succeeded in silencing him again.  "You don't understand." I barked, as gently as I could.  "I didn't find out about it two months ago.  I've been ill since at least the summer.  I mean to bark that the date given for my death was two months ago.  I'm on borrowed time."

Eddie sat down suddenly on the pavement, the ghost of the word "No" formed on his lips.
"It's alright, Ed." I smiled.  "It's really alright.  I'm not in pain, just tired all the time.  And I'm ready."
"But J*s*s Chr*st, Jazz," whimpered Edward, looking stricken, "You're younger than me!"
"Yeah," I replied, with a shrug and a sad philosophical smile, "Mad old world, isn't it?"
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Ah, you're a good man, Eddie." I smiled.  "You just look after Angus, old son."  My friend nodded.  "And let him have the odd pudding now and again, eh?!"
Eddie strained to poke his large snout through the posts of my fence and planted a gentle kiss on my snout.
"See you around, dearheart." he smiled and, with that, he turned and ran back to his own house without glancing back.

I am growing increasingly tired.  I can still get up and down my stairs unaided, although sometimes I do require a little assistance to jump into bed or my car.  Do you recall the time of my partner's Jane Austen play?  (If not, see here: Jane Austen).  The piece closed with the letter written by Cassandra Austen to a niece, describing the last moments of her beloved younger sister.  At the time (2007) I could not understand why anyone should wish for such things...

'When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: "God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!" Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible...'

Now, I believe I understand what Jane Austen meant...

But be of stout heart, dear reader, for I am not afraid.

Good afternoon.