Thursday, 26 August 2010

One Year Today...................

It’s just after 10 as I type this. On this day, 26th August 2009, I was just about to do some training with some colleagues. It was using our emergency evacuation chair. For the most part, this was a fun activity, as it involved strapping a ‘volunteer’ into the evac chair and then taking them down stairs, which is what it is designed to do.

It’s fun because depending how quickly you take them down the stairs the paler the person you get at the bottom. Despite the safety features of the chair which meant you could not tip someone over or if you had to let go of the chair, the chair would just stop and not fall down the stairs, and even if you pushed it, brakes on, it wouldn’t budge, the idea of being strapped helpless into a chair and being pushed down some stairs is a bit unnerving!

So we spent this time from 10.00 am until just before lunch doing this activity. I hadn’t taken my phone with me, since we were on a stair well and objects like that were likely to get lost or damaged.

At some point around 11.30 onwards, the phone calls began. My mum left me a message, my aunty left me a message, the nurse at the hospice left me a message, I didn’t hear my phone as it was on my desk.

I got back to my desk just after 12.00 midday. Then my mobile went again. It was my sister. She asked if I was at work, and I said yes, and she was unsure about what to say other than it was about dad. I told her she had to tell me. He has gone into rest bite care only the day before because the pain he was in was worse and it was going to mean better pain relief.

Then she told me Dad had just died, at 12.00 midday.

For a few seconds then I sort of went into really sensible mode, as I asked her where the hospital was (I hadn’t even had chance to visit him there yet), and got directions and said I would be there as soon as I could.

Then I sobbed. At my desk. I’m pretty sure given the quiet environment I work in it would have been heard down the entire office, but you don’t even think about that do you?

I rang Mick to tell him, and then sobbed some more.

My friend came over and just held me. She knew I was trying to leave but decided I was in no fit state to drive anywhere so made me sit and calm down. I calmed down enough to be able to leave. I needed to just go.

It’s strange because today, it’s really wet and dull, really miserable weather. And that day was just the same. I went home and got some stuff together. We decided I would go on my own, it would be best. I didn’t want my kids to have to see their granddad like that.

I drove to the hospital in the rain, tears streaming. I’m not sure how I did it, only that I did, and I got to where I was about 20 minutes away and I suddenly felt sick. I have never seen anyone dead before, never, and I was about to go and see my dad, my own father, and he wouldn’t be alive. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. How the hell was I supposed to handle that?

When I arrived at the hospital, the rain had eased and the sun was starting to come through. I parked the car somehow and the first thing I realised was that I was desperate for the loo. Just my bodily functions had carried me so far but now needed to be sorted.

I went in and told them who I was, and if I could use the loo. I went in and straight away set off the panic alarm thinking it was a light switch. I was in such a mess, nothing worked like it should have and I felt like jelly, nothing was stable at all.
I came out to see two of my aunties, tearful and came over to hug me. They led me slowly to Dad’s room.

There were no words for my reaction when I saw him there. No words could describe that crushed feeling I had. I couldn’t breathe, or speak, or stand up, or live. It was like everything stopped. I buried my head into my sister, more for support as I just felt like I was going to implode.

When I managed to get my breathing under control my mum held out her hand to me and said ‘come and see your Dad’.

Everyone was in the room, so quiet.

Dad looked so peaceful, so very peaceful. He knew it was his time, he had even delayed coming to the hospice for a day because he just ‘knew’. He had become unwell that morning, it had been so quick.

He went through a period mum said where he was frightened and scared about dying, because he knew it was so close. And she said just before the end, he was smiling and said he had seen something move across his bed, like it was someone he knew and all the fear just went from his face, and just before he died he waited for mum to tell him it was OK to go, and then he went.

My mum and sister had told me they were glad that they had not managed to get me before he passed away, because I would have tried to kill myself to get there to say goodbye and would have no made it.

After a while, we had some time alone with him, each of us in turn to say our goodbyes.

I talked to Dad for a while, told him I loved him, held his hand and then kissed him. I left a tear on his cheek and then left the room.

It’s funny, because you don’t want to leave, but you know you have to, that goodbye, it’s like they are still there, listening, watching.

Funerals to me are more for other people to pay their respects and say goodbye, but for me, my goodbye was then, in that room, on my own with him.

I’ve never seen anything like that, and I’ve never felt anything that made me feel the way I did. I’ve had grief before. When I lost my grandparents, one after the other, but being so much younger, it wasn’t as raw, sad, but not quite the same. But this time it was just so intense.

Dad was cremated on the 4th September, and mum, my sister and I took his ashes and scattered them on his favourite beach in Wales. It was the 20th September and the weather was amazing. It was like mother nature had specially arranged for us to have a beautiful day to send him off with.

I can’t believe that was a year ago. People say things get easier as time goes on, you never forget, but it just feels that bit less painful.
I think over the year I’ve handled things pretty well. I’ve had my moments when I have cried for no reason thinking of something he said or catching a glimpse of the picture of him over my desk, but it wasn’t until the last couple of weeks it’s struck me how much I’ve been grieving but just not obviously, and I’ve been down and tearful because of it.

I didn’t want to face today, but I know I need to. It’s all part of the process after all.

So rest in peace Dad, love you always.