My Brother’s Death


Written by William Dall 1980, on the death of his brother Morven Dall from a cerebral haemorrhage.

The last verse was added some years later.


“Your brother is dying – a stroke,” he said

The Circle of Willis within his head

Has burst and a clot massive and leaden

Will slowly but certainly his neurons all deaden.


And so begins the meaningless charade

When someone is dying. Why this parade

Of endless sitting by his bed there?

His consciousness long gone, quite unaware.


The living benefit from this play,

Not the dying. By our actions we essay

To show we care. It is the usage

But deeper, it our own death presages.


How clear his eye that saw so well!

Now I look into the unfathomable dell

Of death. I close the lid. His heart

Beats on, as if it were a thing apart.


At last it’s over. Now begins the ritual

Of disposing of the dead. “A burial,”

Says his widow, “since I abhor cremation –

“‘Tis but a genteel name for incineration.”


And so we gather by the grave dug new,

The bare earth covered aseptically from view.

The hearse arrives, we bear the coffin to the grave.

A heavy smell of hospital chemicals pervades.


I remain nearby, but, turning then I notice

All have retreated at least twenty paces.

Why the abhorrence? Had he the plague?

Just Death, the obscenity, of which all are afraid.


Much further aside, well out of the way

His widow who wanted all this display

Ignores it as with some silly unrelated child

Her attention has become completely occupied.


Now all disperse and I am left to grieve.

My brother dead! but how can I believe

He’s gone so soon, with sound ancestral line.

Am I to die in but a few year’s time?


*     *     *     *     *


Now thirteen years have gone and I

Still survive. As each year goes by

The weariness of living never done

I think he was perhaps the lucky one.


*     *     *     *     *


Read a history of Morven’s life….

Or read more of William’s writings and family history.