It has been nearly 11 years since we were all together.
The four of us.
Sitting by the bed, I looked at Mum, Dad, my sister and wondered how much longer is this foursome going to last.
I’ve known nothing else since I was five when my sister was born. Life was changing faster than expected.
In childhood, you think life is forever. Yes, you grow older, but you believe life somehow keeps going.
Dad was in his hospital bed, and we were his three visitors. Still, it was good to see Dad back to his usual self. Mr Brain Tumour had decided to rob Dad of some personality and speech, but initial treatment with steroids brought him back.
I took every opportunity to see him.
I didn’t care about work, leaving early or arriving late so I could squeeze in hospital visits. I wanted Dad to know we’d be with him throughout this ordeal.
Trivial issues, including work, got abruptly curtailed out of necessity.
The Jekyll and Hyde of Fear
I understood the situation and the chances of surviving a stage 3 glioma but somehow managed to block out the knowledge. One day Dad appeared worried more than usual.
“Do you think I’ll make it”? He asked.
“Of course you will. You have to stay positive and take one day at a time”. I said, trying to sound encouraging.
A poor cliche.
But what on earth was I meant to say? “No, you only have weeks or months left”.
I couldn’t accept reality. As a family, we carried on, and only occasionally did the truth break through our delusion.
The fear of hurting Dad made me lie. The fear of grief made me angry. Mum bore the sharp end of my anger.
“Watch the paintwork,” Mum said to the ambulance crew bringing Dad home from the hospital.
“Fuck the god damn paintwork,” said my Mr Hyde.
Mum was always fussy about keeping the home neat and tidy so turning the dining room into a downstairs hospital-style bedroom wasn’t easy for Mum or Mr Hyde.
No More Questions
After one of several seizures, Dad was back in the hospital. On one visit, Dad was tearful when I arrived. I suspect a doctor had explained the prognosis again only this time it had registered with him.
I’m amazed at how our minds at the time produced a protective barrier against the sad news of Dad’s impending demise. But on this visit it was different. Dad knew.
He knew he wasn’t going to make it.
There was nothing I could say or do. I was helpless.
It’s unimaginable what it must be like to know your time on earth is ebbing away with every passing second. That you’ll be saying goodbye to your wife, son, daughter and everything you knew.
Is there a rush of panic, fear, serenity or every thought under the sun?
Dad never said.
But he did say he loved us. We had never mentioned it to each other before. We may have always known, but in this sad and sorry circumstance, we used the word love for the first time.
He said he saw angels standing in the corner of the room.
I told him I loved him.
If there’s one thing you take away from this, it’s don’t leave it to the end to tell someone you love them.
Did He Make It?
When I think back to that time, I have nothing but admiration about how my Dad handled death.
There were times he was tearful, but he was always pleased to see me.
If you asked how he was feeling, he’d say “not too bad”.
Did he make it?
He may have died, but he did make it. He made death a dignified journey.
He made an opportunity for us to say we loved him.
I’m glad I told him the truth about my feelings for him.
Eleven years later, I still think of him nearly every day, and I will always miss him.