In October 2018, my father eventually died after suffering for six years with vascular dementia. Over that time, his life lost all dignity and quality. He repeatedly asked many people to help him end his suffering and quit this life.
This book is for the carers who can only watch.
Review Geoff Francis’ A Breath Before Dying is a last kiss flavoured with the lingering taste of revelatory poignancy.
The grief for the loss of his father Freddie’s sensibility, personality and body during his long struggle with dementia is balanced by the dignity, grace and emotional eloquence of this poetic sequence.
The narrative takes the form of an enduring romance, for person, place and predicament; a stirring of ghosts from the shadows and dust of the day.
But more importantly, this book honours the aim of all poetic achievement – both in the literal sense of what it is possible to do in verse, and in terms of the sadnesses inherent in all of our daily experiences and deteriorations – while fusing these meditations with a strident polemic to do with the right to die after death’s bitter promise has stolen all that was once thought possible.
What Freddie Francis lost in the latter years of his life, his son has revived in this searing and soulful collection. In examining each aspect and moment of the slow journey into the Waters of Lethe, Francis invokes that telling phrase coined by Harold Pinter in his Nobel prize speech, ‘the simple dignity of man,’ and highlights a truth that will embolden all of our hearts.
It gifts his book with its own eerie prominence and makes it the first in a long chain of kisses; shared breaths between those who are departing and all of those left behind.
A Breath Before Dying is a vital work and in increasingly godless times, the closest thing poetic realism has to The Book of Common Prayer.
David Erdos, The International Times
A Breath Before Dying is available
direct from Bonobo TV, £6.99 including UK postage (signed by the author)