Gone upstairs

a personal journey through grief and change

Leave a comment


On Friday evening Sam turned up on our doorstep in his coat – he’d just probably been to the cinema to actually see Hunger Games 2. We didn’t find out as he was only there to deliver a terse message: “I want that bed moved out of my sitting room!” The irritability was to the fore and we were definitely personae non grata! I soothed him with what I guessed would be a fair deal” “Let’s wait until Sunday, and if you still feel the same then of course we’ll move it”.

Perhaps it was a wild guess rather than a calculation – we only knew that he wouldn’t stay as well as this for long. We’d actually asked a young friend who’d received cancer treatment and steroids to talk to him about taking them, perhaps persuade him it would be wise…? But whatever she’d said it had made him even more determined not to… Oh well – at least he’d stop being so horrible to us soon! I had to go and relieve the night staff again on Saturday morning and didn’t know which Sam to expect!  But it was fine: he did actually quite like being looked after – on his own terms!


But Saturday 22nd is memorable because of what Martin did.

For nearly 6 months Martin and I had been living in the rented flat in Leicester during the week so he could walk to work and coming back to the community house at the weekends. About once a month – or whenever we could arrange to all be around together – we would have a household meal: November 22nd had been in our diaries for a while and Martin had offered to cook.

He decided that morning to do his signature dish of roast lamb with garlic. I can’t remember what I was doing – probably laundry and checking up on Sam – but Martin spent most of the day preparing the feast 🙂 Sam was much on his mind, of course, and he felt the meal should be a celebration of his life. He placed 27 tea-lights around and above the table, one for every year of his life. The lamb was a reminder of the Passover meal – and we realised we needed to drink the wine…

On January 29th 2010 the first person who had come to visit us after hearing the diagnosis – Grade 3 asterocytoma, probably 3-4 years to live – had brought a bottle of wine intended for laying down – an expensive bottle that could be kept and would improve with time. It would last for some years – but Rich declared that Sam would last longer than the wine! It was a statement of faith and hope, lifting our eyes and spirits out of despair. We kept it on our mantlepiece – we’d kept it for 4+ years so far – as a constant silent declaration.

But we knew the time was rapidly approaching for us to let Sam go. To continue to pray for healing was both unrealistic and unkind: I actually asked the church NOT to pray for healing because there is no doubt that when we pray it has an effect, even when we don’t see a complete reversal it can relieve symptoms and prolong life: we have seen it before. But Sam was not going to recover from this: it would not be ‘faith’ to pretend he would – but he was still going to outlast the wine: we would drink it! We decided to use it in a household communion prayer before our meal and invited Rich to join us.

Just a small circle of friends, but such a precious few moments: thanksgiving to the One who went before, conquered death, showed us the way and opened heaven. We prayed for Sam and committed him into God’s hands – his body, his life and his spirit. We ate the bread and tasted the wine and knew the peace of heaven. It was so right. When there is nothing more to be done we fall back into God and the promises of life forevermore.  Surrender is faith.

The meal was poignant and wonderful. It was the high point of our fellowship as a community, as if this time was what this strange mixture of people – and the lovely baby – were together for. The support of these friends who lived in our house meant more than we can say. We kept some lamb and wine for Sam…


The film buff, not content with Hunger Games, had gone out for the evening with Dean and a few other to see The Imitation Game. It was games all the way for Sam… He came into the room with Dean in a state of excitement, having been completely inspired by the life of Alan Turing. We don’t know how he managed to watch the film with only one eye and one half of his brain working, but he was exultant: “I am just like him!”

Happy Sam made his way home to meet his night watch-women, while contented and full-hearted the residents of Burton St made our way upstairs to bed.