Almost two years after my father's death, his hairbrushes remain upturned upon the bedside table in the room in which he last slept before being taken ill and admitted to hospital. There are two brushes, one for each hand, and it was my father's habit to take them thus, and sweep them one after the other from his brow to the nape of his neck.
They are old, slightly worn, a few silver hairs clinging to the bristles. They still smell of clean skin and the faintly musky odour of hair; the scent of my father's forehead when I bent over him to kiss him farewell at the close of each hospital visit. The scent, lingering on well after the extinguishing of life, and the cremation of my father's body, shocks me into tears, awakens such an acute sense of loss that I can no longer bear to hold the brushes, and I lay them down, side by side as my mother had placed them.