Nov 24

“You’ve seen some things…”

Tag: JournalKal @ 3:11 pm

Caden Beggan.

Monday night I left them to it,
Seeing I was the only non-blood family in the ICU waiting room
(which is for everyone, but we have somehow made ours in four long weeks)
And reading between the medical lines,
I pulled my jacket on.

One man, a stranger a month ago, hugged me.
“My God, don’t all do that, I’ll cry all the way home.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” I canted to their nodding heads.
If there was anything any of us could do.

0430 a text message – a dentist’s appointment,
would I take his brother?
Little boys get slowly picked apart,
But the world rolls on.

Pathetically grateful for my
Something I Can Do,
I’m waiting while he gets scaled and polished
When my phone rings.

Tears. Gasping instructions.
“When you’re done, get here now.
He’s not going to make it.
Don’t tell his brother.”

I don’t tell his brother.

Instead I package him into the car
And force my cheeks to beam at his new braces;
“Pink…for Caden.”

I can’t help but reach to my sternum.
Where a tiny pink dinosaur hangs, talismanic,
On a chain.

He plays video games in the front seat,
While I don’t tell him
We talk about shopping,
Lunch somewhere.
And maybe a new game, maybe,
If we’ve the money.

Aching to protect him from what I know is coming.
Longing to drive and keep driving,
To pass the exit to the hospital,
And deliver us from evil.

Cheering him on as he devastates digital worlds,
His gaudy death toll running to billions.

I cower behind his fun,
Rehearse in my head what I’ll say.
Hacking lies from my lines,

To say just enough.
But not quite enough.

“We’re going to stop at the hospital first…”
I don’t explain what comes second,
I don’t explain that I’ve betrayed him,
And tricked him into coming to watch
His baby brother die.

Side by side, through the bustling corridors.
I make an excuse to catch his shoulder,
Pull him tight to my hip.
(“Let the lady pass, buddo.”)
Then keep him there.

In the cafe, “our” tables are thick with hunched shoulders,
And heads and faces raise to our entrance.
He skips, delighted, into arms of loved cousins,
And I grab a friend’s mother, needing my own.
My face in her hair, I hiss my rage and grief,
Crying myself a liar and a Judas,
Until his face, still cheerfully deceived,
Tugs at my sleeve for hot chocolate.

Someone takes him upstairs,
I find a pastor because, My God,
I’ve learned this month gone by.
That wisdom and preaching may be bedfellows,
But you don’t need religion to take advice.

We’ll all have the chance to say goodbye,
They promise.
Everyone who wants to see him,
Should see him.

And then the tubes and lines,
And drugs that pump his heart,
And flex his lungs,
Will be pulled back, slithering from him
To the floor, like streams of mercury.

Letting him be; no more dressings,
No more suctioning his mouth and nose,
Which, comatose, he still grimaced at,
As though the nurses had spat on a hanky
And wiped his face in front of his friends.

In one corridor his aunt passes me,
Walking too fast,
Eyes down.
I lay a hand on her arm.
And she trips into my chest,
Hanging in my arms.
Gasping and sobbing.

I tarry in the cafe downstairs,
Far longer than I should.
Frightened of upstairs,
Nervous of intruding.

What’s the etiquette for kissing
Your friend’s kid goodbye for the last time?

Friends first? At the head of the queue?
Or last? Surely not, family last, I’d think.

In the end I’m led upstairs by friends,
But stop in the corridor,
Glimpsing through the glass and wire
Of a hospital door,
His mother, holding his brother.

I hide.

Gun shy of her grief,
I despair to find that
Six years on the road has done nothing
To prepare me for this proximity to pain.

Another stranger wraps his arms about me,
“Take a deep breath, big man.”

An uncle finds us, little knot of friends.
“The doctor says if you’re coming in,
You should come in, like….
You should do it now, if you’re going to.”

Into his room.
His room with sinks outside,
In which I’ve scrubbed my hands countless times.

Where the first time I saw him,
His Dad stood with me,
And teased me about pink plastic aprons.

Where each time I’ve visited,
I’ve waited just outside,
With a toy dinosaur.
Or a song.
Hauling in ephemera,
To represent love and hope.

This time we don’t wash our hands.

There’s no point.

In his bed he’s tiny,
Not simply dwarfed by machines
And a hospital bed, but
Two legs and an arm smaller.

From the doorway
I can’t smother instincts,
And I see that this is no time
For long goodbyes.

That just as he’s defied the odds
For a month, he may yet surprise us again
And decide for himself when he leaves.

A nurse is busy with him,
So I sit beside his big brother,
Who tells me he’s sorry,
But he doesn’t think we can go shopping this afternoon,
Like we’d planned.

I kiss the little greying face on the pillow
And excuse myself.

Falling into a sofa
With a numb thump.
A grand mother says to me.
“You’ve seen some terrible things, haven’t you?”
I nod at my shoes.
“It’s different when you love them, isn’t it?”

Walking down Byres Road,
The smallest of the boys
On my shoulders while back at the hospital,
It’s happening.

I took him from a teenage cousin,
Appalled to notice that we, as a building of adults,
Had left the baby with a girl barely out of school herself,
Whose red rimmed eyes showed she needed a break.

Two little trainers drum gently on my chest
As we stroll.
He leans over to my eyeline.
“Did you know…?”
“Yes pal?”

“Did you know that Caden is going to heaven for ever and ever
And never coming back?”

“Yes, darlin’, I know.”

“It’s sad. Look, there’s a digger…can we buy some sweets?”

Standing in a car park in drizzling rain, my shoes muddied up the side from walking straight to my car.

Phone at my ear, ranting at a friend with the distance I wish I had.

Shouting and swearing and demanding answers from a God I don’t believe in.


We all retreat,
Giving the five-now-four of them
Some space to go home.
For some of them the first time home,
In a month.

Within the hour there’s a message.
“We don’t do alone well, please come.”

And we reconvene,
With drink and ministers,
And pots of soup,
And Chinese take out.

And as a group, we slide them, the four of them, back into their lives.

For what comes next.

46 Responses to ““You’ve seen some things…””

  1. MamaBee says:

    Because there are no words, I’ll just send **hugs** :(


  2. Meg says:

    This was beautifully written. Tears, I have them. I’m so sorry. My heart aches for you all.


  3. Worrals says:

    Oh, Cal…how truly awful. So very sorry for your loss.


  4. Fen says:

    Beautiful, raw words. Big hugs from far away, because I know nothing will take the pain away for now.


  5. Rosie says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Cal. He always sounded such a special kid. I’m sure it was a true comfort to the rest of Caden’s family and friends to have you there. I’ll light a candle for him. You’re in my thoughts.


  6. chlost says:

    Yes, it is so much different when we love them. Grief written in such a beautiful way. Thoughts across the world to all of you.


  7. Masher says:

    Very sorry for your loss, Kal. Terrible news.
    Grief like this is something we all suffer from at some point in our lives, but very few of us can put it into words, the way that you do.
    Thank you for sharing with us.


  8. fi says:

    Dearest Kal – all choked up now – thank you for this moving piece. However you came to get to know this brave and beautiful child and his family, you have lived the month with them. You must be so devastated.
    I understand you are considering options – and it is not surprising. You must be burnt out.
    I hope you find a solution and peace for the next step in your life.
    I miss your old posts.
    New Zealand


  9. Cath says:

    There’s no “I’m ok” tag? You’re not ok then. I wouldn’t be either. Sorry for your loss, big hug from the north!


  10. Sapph says:

    I don’t have words for this, so I’ll just give you a virtual hug. I’m so sorry, it’s tough to lose a loved one but its even worse when it’s a child.


  11. Win-Stone says:



  12. Kolla says:

    Incredibly well put together, absolutely brought tears to my eyes.
    My deepest sympathies.


  13. Pam says:

    May the God that I believe in give you peace.


  14. Yorkie says:

    Tears in my eyes big man.
    There’s no words or actions that can assuage the grief.

    Sleep well dinosaur-lad

    (A very tearful) Yorkie


  15. MedicMatthew says:

    Peace, friend.


  16. blogdog says:

    ‘I’m sorry’ seems so inadequate. Grandmother was right I guess, however much you’ve seen nothing can prepare you for when it’s someone you love.


  17. Carrie says:

    Oh pal. That was beautifully written. Bawling my eyes out.

    Big love

    Carrie xxxx


  18. Bobbi says:

    I’m sorry for you loss Kal. I don’t know how you found the strength to write it – I can just pray for peace for you and that wee lad’s family. Big *hugs*


  19. Rach says:

    Oh Kal…Two big fat tears rolled down my face as I realised what you were talking about. I’m so sorry. You’ve had a lot to deal with these last few years. *gentle hug*


  20. Libby says:

    Tears for the lovely little boy and for you and all his friends and family. Hugs and love for you all, I hope that you find peace soon.


  21. foxmitten says:

    So sorry for your loss x


  22. Julie P. says:

    Sending love and prayers for you and your dear friends.


  23. Alex says:

    I’m normally pretty detached about these things but I’ve got a proper lump in my throat reading this. I just heard about it on the news, what a tragedy.


  24. Fee says:

    Just *hugs*. There are no words adequate for such a loss.


  25. jean says:

    It’s been said before but let me add that I am so sorry. To lose a child, no matter the age or circumstance, is a pain no one should have to know. I am sending you and his family and friends healing thoughts and hugs. Remember to keep breathing, feeling and letting others in.


  26. Bob H says:

    Today I lit a candle, not only for your loss, but also for my godson lost to us three years ago. I feel for you and yours and still wonder at when the pain will diminish. thankyou for sharing.


  27. karen says:

    (hugs) to all.


  28. Andy says:

    Hugs to you. Thinking of you and the rest of the family.


  29. Keith says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful.

    My thoughts are with you all. I can’t begin to imagine what you’re all going through


  30. Maeve says:



  31. The Jannie says:

    (offers a manly shoulder)
    Well written, Kal, for a ghastly occasion. Having seen and heard my 20 month old granddaughter breathe her last ten years ago I can say with authority that you caught the day.


  32. Ali says:



  33. jen says:

    love from us to you, we’re here for you anytime you need escape/break/refuge xxx


  34. Wendy Kuramoto says:

    My heart aches for you and for them. The words you spoke to that littl e
    child were not a lie. You did not decieve him. You gave him a moment
    in time to be the child he is and to delay his pain a wee bit. That
    was a gift and certainly not a betrayal!
    Treat yourself gently Kal.
    Sending you love and inner strength from Canada.


  35. Andrew says:

    yes, It’s different when you love them.


  36. carol d says:

    Beautifully written, Kal. Hugs from Virginia to anyone who wants them!


  37. David says:

    wow. I’m crying. I’m sorry for your loss.


  38. Heyho says:

    Kal xx


  39. Katherine says:

    Am sure I commented the other day (whilst holding closer my own little boy, fast asleep), no real words, just hugs. I remember sitting in that ICU waiting room at Yorkhill once, can picture your scene only too clearly x


  40. Peter says:

    Oh fuck Kal, not in a bad, sweary way but just, Oh fuck.

    So sorry.


  41. Book Week Scotland and other stories – Scottish Roundup says:

    […] boy who was then fighting for his life in Yorkhill. Caden’s funeral was this week and friend¬†TraumaQueen posted this moving tribute to the family. Last Year’s Girl¬†uses a Hollyoaks storyline about […]

  42. Gail says:

    First, I had to spend some time at Facebook reading posts from last month. Then I finished reading your post, which lifted the cold horror of the story from my heart, especially when his family called for company and you went. Sometimes all you can do is be there. I’m sure they thanked you but I thank you too, because that’s what I feel, and because I can.

    On a different topic, if TraumaQueen has to go away for a while, my wish is that you don’t go too far or stay too long. But MORE than that, I wish TraumaQueen doesn’t become a chore.
    Now go, run along, you have other things to do just now.
    Be good to yourself.


  43. Lady V says:

    Oh darling xxx


  44. Sebbie says:

    I’m late to this but I’m so very sorry. You write so beautifully as always, I think I would have cried anyway but perhaps not as much. I hope you and his family are getting by.


  45. Amaranthine says:

    Powerful words, eloquently used. I do hope you are all finding some consolation in each other’s company. What a tragedy for everyone, especially that brave little boy.


  46. John says:

    Beautifully written my friend and what a sentimental piece, I’ve been left with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat once again by the simpleness and directness of how you write.


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