The Night that Jane Died

The night before Jane died, I got home a little later than I had said I would. We bundled into the car and dropped Elsie at Mary-Anne and Lynne’s with various bags of hers and Ed’s. Then we went straight to the Rialto and saw Enduring Love. It’s not an uplifting movie. It has its share of death, and near death. Despite that, Jane and I had a warm time at the movie and coming home.

We warmed the place up and sat around with our computers, casually poking around the Web, reading bits out to each other. We’d become rather hungry by the time we decided to cook. We had a regular easy meal of ours. Those green pasta parcels of ricotta with a bottled tomato sauce and parmagiano. Then we just sat and talked, enjoying a nice bottle of wine (Jane’s sort, not mine). We sat and talked and sat and talked.

We listened to the Be Good Tanyas and speculated about how Country music came about. Jane told me the story of how English folk got from the “West Country” to the States and then went electric. I felt slightly ignorant for not knowing that Dylan first used electric instruments at Woodstock.

At one point, we got talking about some outdoor exploit of mine, probably from my hippy days up the Coast. Out of the blue, Jane commented “You like to compete with Struan, don’t you”. Struan, if you don’t know was my friend and Jane’s boyfriend when he introduced us in 1976. “What?!” I replied, with futility as Jane took that as an invitation to repeat herself, with an innocent smile. To my astonished protest, she responded by producing a 1976/7 diary of hers from which she quoted. Sure enough, it contained a detailed account of a tramping trip that the three of us went on, to Possum Hut, in which “S” and D” competed over fire-lighting, route-finding or something like that.

The diary now shut, I noticed a couple of dozen small stick-on tabs sticking out of its pages. What are those? “Occurrences”, replied Jane. My heart dropped slightly, for fear I was about to hear more about Jane’s youth than I wanted to. Of what? “You”, she replied.

Jane also told me why she called me Daniel. It had dated back to our early email exchanges. Jane confessed she had had to work rather hard to maintain it, in the face of everyone else constantly calling me Dan. But that was precisely the point. Jane was living in my city with my kids, my family, my friends and my history all around. Jane called me Daniel to distinguish her relationship and life with me from all of that.

About 12:00, Jane went to bed, saying she was tired. I mucked about for 20 minutes and then went to bed myself. Jane was sleeping. I read, keeping slightly away from her, to let her sleep, and to have a little space to myself. After a while, I turned the light off and went to sleep in the same position.

At some time in the night, I have woke to hear Jane breathing irregularly. She seemed to pause in her breathing for rather a long time and then gasp with a slight shriek as she took in breath. I took it to be bad snoring or perhaps a nightmare. I gave Jane a bit of a nudge, as you do to try to distrupt someone’s snoring. She didn’t respond but, after a short while became quiet. I slept.

At six in the morning, I woke and reached across Jane. She was lying on her back with the duvet not properly over her. I had hogged it and she hadn’t pulled it back. She was very cold. I became frightened and put my ear to her nose but heard no breath. I turned on the light. Jane had grey lips and blue patches all over her. I knew she was dead. I probably said “oh no” or worse, several times as I dialled 111.

With the 111 guy coaching me, I attempted to resuscitate Jane with CPR. She was so cold and blue that I knew I didn’t have much chance of success. I think it was a faint hope that the nightmare would go away that kept me going.

The ambulance folks arrived, dragged Jane onto the floor and got out their equipment. I went into Elsie’s room and wrapped myself in her duvet. I was pretty cold too by then. I lay on the floor and screamed and convulsed. Then, strangely, my mind wandered. Would I have more time than I had expected to to experiment with my new computer that day? And then incredulity that I had thought that. Had I willed Jane’s death for more time on the computer? Meanwhile in the next room they were working hard. Again, a spark of hope flickered. Have they managed to bring Jane to life? Before long though, an ambulance guy told me that no, there was no hope.

A crushing cold dark fell on me, passed into my core and pulsed out through my limbs. I lay alone. Not Jane. Not Jane. Not Jane. No, my Jane. No. No. No. Not my Lovely, Jane.

On their instructions, I got to the phone and called Kate and Walter’s. They weren’t home. I called Hanna who said she was coming around. Perhaps I managed to get some clothes on by the time she arrived. Cops were there with questions but well-meaning.

They had put Jane back in bed and I lay with her briefly for the last time, already appalled at her deadness.

I phoned Simon who said he was coming.

An undertaker arrived and they carried Jane’s body down the stairs strapped to a stretcher. I got to say a brief farewell to a lumpy thing invisible under a blanket in the back of a hearse. And then to come back inside our house, Jane’s and my house, with no Jane.

7 replies on “The Night that Jane Died”

Thank you again Dan it is good to be able to read all this detail in my own time (well work’s time really) and I hope it helps you as much to write it. I have never had my own computer at home but am going to have to get one as I keep crying as I sit in my office reading your blog and look at other emails. Especially Jane’s email sent me on the Friday. It was just a link to an article by Maureen Lipman and her comment “I love Maureen Lipman”. I will really really miss hearing from her almost every day, even just a comment or two…those on going conversations. Work is good – I can lose myself for blocks of time.keep blogging.

jane was language, i thank you dan for keeping jane’s soul so alive through your written words, your honesty. you were both obviously ‘soulmates’ destined to be & it’s such a warming thought to know that jane had had such a kindred spirit to play the game of life with.

bella akroyd (nee grant). a ‘schoolmate’.

my sincere condolences to you & your family dan, con, george, christopher, kat & sarah… jane will not be forgotten!! she’s left too big a mark.

dan I did not know jane and I only just met you thankyou for the gift you have given in sharing your heart so openly it has helped me in my own processes as i am surrounded by death at the moment

Dan, I was a school mate of Jane’s. I learned of her death recently from a mutual school mate, Sara Phillips. Although I hadn’t seen Jane for years, possibly since shortly after High School, the news of her death suddenly sent memories of her flooding back. I lost my mother about two years ago and have a very vague idea of your grief. I’m not sure if you and I ever met ‘back then’ but I certainly remember Jane and Struan’s tramping exploits so maybe we did. Seeing photos of Jane shows she hadn’t changed much. That straighter than straight blonde hair still an unmistakable feature of her. Good luck for the future, I know it will be hard. Regards, Chris.

[…] On this night, one year ago, Jane and I were enjoying our last evening together. Listening to the “Be Good Tanya’s”, as I am now, alone. Though so many have been torn away, the fibres of our relationship, our love that had only just (@#$%ing) begun, remain stretched from my flesh to the woman who wrote those diary entries. It just is. I don’t think I could do anything about it, even if I wanted to. One year on, I sit bolt upright and think “NO! That’s wrong. That hasn’t happened. Not that.” There is no panic, only knowing that it is not possible that Jane is dead. And then the creeping incursion of “actually, …” begins to battle my denial. […]

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