It’s been ten years, Den, and only now do I feel I can say goodbye to you.
You were sixty three, I was sixty one. You died on Friday night. Your son brought the news to us at our shabbat table.
We buried you on the Sunday. We laid you to rest at an odd corner of the Jewish burial ground, beneath a young gum tree. I looked at the tree at that time and I remembered Dad’s fear of falling gums. I thought, here you are again, going against Dad’s prudent judgement. And I smiled.
You lie now, beyond the judgement of humans. Many were the people who judged you, fewer were those who tried to walk a mile in your shoes. They were big shoes. Like everything about you, very big. Magnified, sanctified… People who did understand loved you extravagantly, in proportion to your extravagant life.
And now I can let you go. From the time of our final conversation I dreamed of you. The dreams were dreams of helplessness. You could not help yourself, I needed to help, I tried to help, but in those dreams, I could not. You called me that last time. The phone woke me from a dreamless sleep. Your speech rustled and crackled, the sweetness of your voice ruined by seven days with the breathing tube. You had rallied, they’d removed the tube; now, with your breathing failing, they needed to replace it. Your voice crackled: ‘Doff, they want to put the tube back. What should I say?’
I heard your breathing, a rasping, gasping sound. ‘Do as they say Den.’
‘Is it my best chance?’
‘Den, it’s your only chance.’
They returned you to your coma and they replaced the tube. Three days later you breathed your last.
At the cemetery we said, magnified and sanctified be the holy name.
One evening during the week of shiva my son led the prayers in honour of his uncle. He loved you Den. We loved you.
For ten years I dreamed of you, restless dreams, frantic. I was unable to help. Then I started writing about you and the dreams stopped. Now I sleep without the dreams. Sleep in peace beneath your gum tree, Den.