Michael’s Story

Hello and welcome to you all. My name is Francis and it is my privilege and greatest honour to tell you about Michael.

An Academic and A Gentleman.

Michael Ford was born on Monday 20th July 1942 in the back streets of Handsworth, Birmingham, England. His mother experienced a difficult birth and doctors advised her to terminate, however she steadfastly refused and promised to give Michael up to God if he should live. Fortunately, Michael was born and the family led a simple life barely living within their means.

Michael’s upbringing was as a devout Roman Catholic and he resolutely followed this dictate with pride, passion, joy and the humility one would expect from someone whose life’s purpose was to do well by everyone. Indeed, Michael even as a child showed signs of extraordinary awareness of people, his environment and a passion for music. He studied long and fastidiously, gaining a place at Trinity College, Cambridge at which he acquired double first class honours degrees. Latterly, he gained employment with a plethora of internationally recognised and well-regarded organisations through which he continued his studies and acquired three doctorates including Music and Behavioural Psychology.

“Promised to give Michael up to God if he should live.”

Throughout Michael’s life, he never forgot his mother’s promise of giving him up to God. Therefore, he lived his life accordingly. Everything Michael gained and acquired he had to work hard for. However, inevitably his life was also made up with a string of enemies. Michael never really understood why people disliked or even hated him such. Years later, I was reminiscing with him and helped Michael to realise, people were actually jealous of him. This was a revelation to him because he never considered any of his attainments made him any more special than any other person. Michael lived his life helping people. His essence was pure and true.

Moving forward to 2016, nobody knew this year would be so pivotal, for everyone connected to Michael. March 2016 played a significant role in Michael’s life, although he did not know it. In February he had made a huge effort to ensure, what he thought would be his sister Mavis’ final holiday, because she was ill and aged 80, came to fruition. Little did Michael, Mavis, David and I realise, at this point, that this holiday, would be his last.

“He thought would be his sister Mavis’ final holiday.”

Now, let me backtrack a little and explain who David is and where I fit in to the family. David is Michael’s Civil Partner, having been his partner for almost 25 years. For the last eight years they have separated but agreed not to annul the Civil Partnership. Ultimately, David has always remained Michael’s dearest friend, family and closest ally.

I have known Michael for over 20 years and consider Michael more as family than as a friend, he felt the same. I have lived in the “Garage” apartment since 2007 and when David left home I helped Michael through the breakup and kept him safe. Together, Michael, Mavis, David and I make up the family. Though, that’s not all the family members. I haven’t mentioned Sarah, the dog, a Cocker Spaniel. I promise, more about her soon, so do read on.

Over the subsequent weeks in March I had begun to notice some concerns about his memory and had been pressing him to have a memory assessment. One Sunday night I said good night to Michael as usual stating I would see him after work the following evening.

The next day, I telephoned Michael from work and spoke to David, his Civil Partner, to be informed that he was unable to speak because he was feeling too ill. Events following that same day, ultimately saw him being admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. David took Michael to hospital and ensured I was kept informed at all stages.

Michael had only 7 weeks to live, although nobody knew it.

Initial signs indicated Michael had advanced Dementia. However, further tests, a CT Scan and an MRI a few days later, confirmed he had Lymphoma affecting both sides of his brain. This Lymphoma was so aggressive and advanced that doctors and nurses had not seen this type for such a long time. We all felt denied of the opportunity to properly say goodbye to our dearest Michael because of the Dementia and the confusion that he had to bare.

Michael was a month in hospital. However, you would think it would only take its toll on us humans, David, Mavis and I. No, it also affected his/our dog, Sarah. She, his much beloved companion never left Michael’s side since she came home at the tender age of 12 weeks old. They were inseparable. When Michael became ill and had to stay in hospital for four weeks, I took care of Sarah and whilst I was at work during the day David took care of her. Initially, Sarah missed Michael too much such that she howled like a wolf and to hear her was heart-breaking. I would have to endure listening to her howls, knowing there was nothing I could do to pacify her. She wanted her daddy Michael and nobody else could stand in for him. Nobody else could ease her breaking heart.

 

Pets have feelings too and show they are sad.

I determined to help Sarah realise that her daddy Michael had not disappeared from her life by enabling her to remember his scent through David and I. Therefore, each time we visited Michael in hospital we hugged him frequently because we love him but also because we wanted to make sure his scent would transfer to our clothing. Most times Sarah would be in the car waiting for us to return to the car park. Back at the car we would hug Sarah and in so doing she would pick up the scent of her daddy Michael and know he was still around, even if he could not be with her. At least this way we could maintain a relationship between Michael and his beloved Sarah.

Middle of April, Michael was duly discharged to mine and David’s care for palliative, end of life. An appropriate Care Package was arranged, but ultimately, it was down to the two of us, to show Michael, in his time of need, we were there for him. We ambled and blundered our way through the tasks, and am sure, we got things wrong and had to learn from our mistakes. We become reluctant Carers but did it all with love.

Pets know when you are ill and will always stand by you.

Once home, Sarah greeted him with enthusiasm displaying her love for him in her inimitable way. However, she knew something was different. She sensed a vulnerability in Michael, she sensed a hospital vibe from him and knew that although this was indeed her daddy Michael he was different. Sarah allowed Michael time and space she tentatively licked his hand kissed him on the cheek as he lay in his bed. Sarah jumped on the bed sat astride his chest and looked upon his face with a wizened expression, as if trying to figure out why he wasn’t walking or talking to her as he used to, and why he simply wasn’t behaving as normal. Sarah was glad, or at least to us, she appeared happy enough that Michael was back home, but we all knew, that she knew, Michael was different now.

The Professional Carers and District Nurses provided much needed guidance and helpful hints for which we are both very appreciative. We took care of Michael for just under 2 weeks, before he passed. We know, as family and Carers, the two of us did our very best and Michael could not have wanted for better treatment.

Michael passed away at 11.17pm on Friday 29th April 2016, with his family and night carer around him. Earlier that afternoon, we had ensured the Parish Priest had visited to administer the Last Rites as Michael was a devout Roman Catholic.

 

“She tentatively licked his hand kissed him on the cheek.”

 

During the hours before Michael passed Sarah had jumped on to his bed and kissed his hand and face whilst he drifted in and out of consciousness. He may or may not have been aware of Sarah’s presence but hopefully we like to think he was. Animals seem to have a sixth sense and Sarah may have known Michael’s time was coming to an end. She was a little restless and soon jumped down and re-joined us. When Michael passed, died, Sarah jumped on his bed, kissed his hand and face, and I think she definitely knew her beloved daddy had gone. Moments later she jumped down again. Since then, she like us has been mourning Michael’s death, at least that’s what we think.

Sarah had a gregarious, cheerful, playful, energetic personality. Ever since Michael left home and was admitted to hospital Sarah has not been herself, and definitely since Michael died, she has lost much of her previous vibrant qualities. However, she like us humans, I can only imagine must be in mourning too.

“Michael passed away at 11:17pm on Friday 29th April 2016 R.I.P.”

Thursday 19th of May 2016 is significant for two important reasons. Michael’s Funeral and Cremation took place this day and his beloved Sarah turned five.

“Frequently, during Michael’s care, David and I squabbled.”

I would like to add, frequently, during Michael’s care, David and I squabbled because we had differences of opinion, and we are currently learning to get on with each other in the face of this adversity. David and I have always had a tenuous relationship spanning over 20 years throughout which we have fought frequently. Michael, had always been the mediator and had stopped us from falling out completely. Even whilst we journeyed to and from the hospital visiting Michael, I would remind David that we would have to make more of an effort ourselves to maintain our friendship because Michael was no longer able to intervene.

Ultimately, I am glad to say, David and I are getting on much better. We both miss Michael terribly. Our hearts are broken, the joy in our lives has dissipated, and our future without Michael appears to be nothing more than a bleak wilderness. Thoughts of suicide is present in both our minds and we are receiving counselling to help overcome the bereavement. 


A future with Michael echoes wantonly in our broken hearts.

David has assisted me greatly, with presenting this website to Carers across the globe who are caring for their loved ones. I sincerely hope the Carers Diaries help to relieve the stress and worry of caring. I hope they enable families to appreciate each other and recognise caring is not easy, and easily takes its toll on all. I also hope the Carers Diaries, enable the person being cared for to notice their carer achieving a sense of well being and subsequently passing on the good mood feeling to them. At least carers need not worry about how to present all the details and issues at medical appointments. The Carers Diaries allows the simple presentation of information precisely when requested.

In times of need many families unite. May the carers of loved ones appreciate that the people for whom they care and diligently look after may be with them for a finite time only. Let the people being cared for somehow appreciate the dedicated care and attention being applied to them by their beloved family, and recognise how stressful it is for them, even if they are unable to express it.

“Enable families to appreciate each other and recognise caring is not easy.”

To Carer’s and the people in their Care, around the world, may the spirit of strength and unity always prevail and be a constant beacon of hope.

Much love and gratitude

Francis

A Carer’s friend, helping to relieve stress and worry.