An Ending

Mercian Man
5 min readJun 12, 2021

I pulled the wedding ring off my finger…

(Source: Unsplash)

I drove around the bend in the road and pulled the car over into a small layby 400 yards from her parent’s house.

They would be returning to the house for a cup of tea after waving me off.

I pulled my wedding ring off my finger. That was it. It was all for nothing, I was alone and my life was empty. It would be a new start. I would not return to that town for years.

In the back of the car were the clothing and possessions I had used over the last 3 months. I pushed a CD of Del Amitri, Change Everything in the player on the dashboard, and indexed it to the song Spit in the rain.

You can grin, but you can’t hide

All the emptiness inside

Since she left

You like

Spit in the rain.

Without a doubt, it is true

She was the only love you knew

Now she’s gone,

It fades away, like

Spit in the rain.

And you can try, to find her

But you’ll be looking in vain

Because love disappears like

Spit in the rain.

You can try, to figure out

Why you mean nothing to her now

But you might,

Just as well go

Spit in the rain.

And maybe then, you will find

Her sweet memory, in your mind

Washed away,

Out of sight, like

Spit in the rain.

I pulled out the layby, tears rolling openly down my face. I joined the dual carriageway and glanced at the ominous shape of the steel mill to my right, belching smoke into the atmosphere. It dominated the area like a sleeping giant.

We take our lives for granted but it can change quickly, only 6 months earlier my wife Clare and I enjoyed a holiday in the US. We picked up a sporty hire car at Huston airport and after a night with relatives, we drove over to my aunts and uncles in Tucson. When I look back, were there signs?

In January I was working on a large tender. It was important we won. She was not feeling well, just under the weather and as she did not work, I suggested she went to her parents for company. I was doing long hours and would not be much company.

It’s years ago and I cannot remember the details. Maybe she had been gone a week. It was late evening, my hall phone rang. It was my mother-in-law Pat. Clare was in the hospital.

The family doctor had been to visit Clare’s nephew who lived at the house and Pat asked the doctor to take a quick look at Clare. He noticed the enlarged liver and immediately admitted her to the hospital for further tests. I packed some things and left in the early morning, driving the 4hrs there on the empty roads.

An observation worth making is that hospital staff know the prognosis much earlier than you think! Be worried when they are extra nice. I was allowed to visit any time, outside the normal visiting hours on the ward. I can remember other patients on the ward complaining about the injustice. Events after that get blurred.

I remember being asked if we wanted kids and that we might consider having eggs removed, but the doctor said we clearly didn’t as she was 34.

Then within a day, I was called into a room with her parents and told she was terminally ill. Pat never heard this correctly and from that moment still believed there was hope. My wife had rectal cancer which had spread to her liver. She was riddled with it. There was no point operating.

I moved in, spending my time between work and nursing. But after a discussion with my boss, I stopped working. Full-time nursing and making arrangements.

She wanted a new car so we could take trips in comfort. We managed the seafront a mile from the house, but she never got out of the car.

I had no idea how long she would live so I spoke to my boss and offered my resignation, I knew they were downsizing so maybe I could get a payoff to see us through. He ignored my offer and told me not to worry. He was a vicar and personal friend and he adored my wife.

The only trips we now took were for palliative X-Ray therapy. Everything was happening at pace. A nightmare merry go round you can’t get off.

She wrote to her college friends to tell them she would die. A few managed a visit.

Her parents decided we could no longer cope in their house, a decision I was upset about but in hindsight probably correct as by now I was carrying her upstairs to the toilet. We moved her to a hospice and she was given a single room with a flower garden outside the window. It was spring now.

Her youngest sister pulled her wedding forward so Clare could be there but the cancer was racing, devouring her from the inside. As it turned out she managed to attend the rescheduled wedding by a day.

They got married in the church and then visited Clare and me in the hospice. That was one of the hardest days for me, seeing my bride, dressed up in a new dress I had bought her, looking like a victim of Auschwitz (she was down to about 60lb) being visited by her radiant sister in white. I still have the picture of the family around her bed. Her eyes big and her cheeks were sunken in, barely recognizable.

I spent the last night with her in the hospice. When they say you fade away it’s true. She was so sleepy, her body had no energy. I just lay next to her. The nurses had said it was allowed. She was thirsty, always asking for water.

She died in my arms after dawn. A nurse came in and checked her pulse. She told me it would be best to take her wedding ring off otherwise I would need to go through the hospital to get it back.

So I pulled the ring off her dead finger. There was nothing attractive about the corpse. I kissed her for the last time, was given a copy of the death certificate, and drove from the hospice to the local town where I registered the death. All very matter of fact. I walked on the beach trying to clear my head before returning to Clare’s parents.

That night I wrote 10 or so letters to her friends telling them Clare was dead.

A few days later I went to see Clare in her coffin. Her Grandmother wanted to pay her respects. She never got to see the open coffin. I told them to nail it up. That was not my wife. They had dressed her in the wedding dress but that just made it more horrific. It was not the last memory you want.

The funeral was a week or so later. The church overflowed with family, the local congregation, Clare’s father’s colleagues from Steel Works, and my work colleagues. I was 32. I stayed one more night and then left.

So returning to the now, I am driving to my house, which is no longer the home we built together, to start again. I am angry, angry at the injustice of my life.



Mercian Man

I write about life and the experiences that make us stronger. I enjoy Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Annie Proulx & Mervyn Peake.