The 3rd of March is a special day. It marks what would have been my Dad’s 65th birthday.
Dad was the first person I experienced dying, my first true experience of grief. It was a year from his diagnosis to his death (minus a couple of days). He did one course of chemo before getting his terminal diagnosis.
I remember when he was diagnosed. Dad called me up – totally unheard of since he was always such a text message guy. I can’t remember what was said, but I distinctly remember hanging up the phone and saying out loud “Ha… my Dad has cancer.” Actually I can’t remember if it was “ha” or “huh”. Anyway.
In early January 2012, we were on holiday visiting family when I got the next phone call. It must have been the hardest phone call of his life. It was a sunny day, and we were coming out of some shops across the road from a beach. With the news he gave us it was a pretty somber day after that. Sure, the sun was shining, but it didn’t feel like it. He didn’t find out how long he had left, and that was actually quite nice.
I was back at work late January and struggled through the next few weeks. The day after Valentines day I was officially unemployed, and on my way to the South Island of New Zealand. I had no job prospects, no more than 5 nights accommodation, and a bundle of nerves.
Seeing Dad was a little bit hard, but thankfully my sister had prepared me. He had lost a lot of weight, and you could feel it when you hugged him. But despite his physical condition, he was still very much Dad. We had some good times and over the next six weeks he was well enough. It wasn’t until about a week before he died that he needed a wheelchair, and in his last 3 days he was virtually bedridden. While of course nobody wants to end up that way, it really was a blessing. He would have hated to be wasting away in a bed for months or years on end. He died at 6:03pm, and I was there. I was nervous about how it would happen and I’m glad I could have been there when it happened. The thing that sticks with me about it was how similar to how the Bible describes death in the old testament. Death is described as someone “breathing their last”. His breathing changed, so I buzzed for the nurse. After a few minutes Dad inhaled, and then exhaled. He didn’t inhale again. It’s a very final moment. You can’t bring back a life, it’s a helpless feeling. You expect it for however long you know it’s going to happen but then it happens, and your reality changes significantly.
Us kids got to spend one last birthday with him 3 weeks before he died. It was a pretty good day. We went for a good drive and explored the countryside, had fish & chips and the kitchen staff at the nursing home made Dad a bread and butter pudding, his favourite.
Today, I listened to Led Zeppelin. We had plenty of good times listening to his favourite music, so it was good to turn it up tonight. My apologies to my neighbours… 🙂