When I thought about losing one or other of my parents, I just couldn’t imagine how I would deal with it. I guess we all consider it at some point as they get older.
Although my Dad was 71, he didn’t seem old to me. That’s because he didn’t act it. He was a teenager inside, and that made him seem young. Before he became ill, he was physically fit. He played golf a couple of times a week, he cut our massive lawn once every two weeks which was a huge task, even for a young person, and any spare time he had, he did stuff.
Actually, before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, he was all set to go back to work part-time and do some labouring for a friend of the family.
Last Christmas Dad was diagnosed with a tumour at the edge of his brain. It wasn’t very big, but he only had one option for survival, and that was the most aggressive form of chemo you can imagine.
He coped really well, up until the last lot of treatment. He developed Pneumonitis which is inflammation of the lungs. He almost died in hospital, but Dad being Dad, he didn’t!
He came home and over the following weeks he seemed to be getting better. However, the chemo had destroyed the tumour, but as it turned out, also his lungs.
I won’t go into details of how he died. But it was a complete shock. We did not expect to lose him.
I didn’t manage to get to the hospital in time and that sort of bothered me. Even though he wouldn’t have known, it still upset me that I missed seeing him one last time. Luckily my brother and Mum were with him and that has been some comfort to me.
Mum didn’t want me to see him after he had died, and that was because he had died in distress. I walked down the corridor to go in and then stopped. I decided to let everyone else make the decision for me and they said ‘Don’t go in’
I don’t regret that decision, but I did feel the need to see him at some point. As his death was referred to the coroner, it was two weeks before I could do that. I was determined to see him. Nobody else wanted to as they had seen him at the hospital so it was just me. I preferred to be alone to be honest.
For a few moments I was in shock, and wondered what the hell I was thinking. After a few minutes I pulled myself together and turned to look at his body. It was then that I realised that it was exactly that, a body, nothing more. My Dad was gone. That was not my Dad, just the body he lived in.
I cried and cried all the way home from Mum’s. I’d been holding it in all day so as not to upset her, as she wasn’t sure I had done the right thing. I had though.
I have to say it was lovely. It was packed. People were lining the isles and some couldn’t even get in, so we had speakers in the lobby. It was not religious, just all about my lovely Dad. I spoke and so did Matt. My brave Mum also got up and paid tribute to him. I chose ‘Dance With My Father’ by Luthor Vandross as the contemplation music. It was at that point that I lost it. I knew it was likely, as that makes me cry anyway. It said how I felt. If I could dance with him again….
The wake was fun. I made a massive collage of Dad over the years. Everyone was picking themselves out and remembering the fun they’d had with him. The day was glorious. The sun shone and we all managed to sit outside. We toasted Dad and sat there until 5pm!
I am okay. Better than I thought it was possible for me to be. I talk about him all the time. I don’t speak about him in the past tense, I never say I loved him, only that I love him. I have stopped thinking about him in his hospital bed. He would want me to be strong for Mum, so that is what I am. I still cry sometimes, but I don’t fight it. It’s not a weakness, it’s a form of relief.
He is gone from this life, but maybe he exists in another one.