It’s been a year now. 365 days since I last saw you. There was a phone call, I slept through the first ring, but a minute later I registered something was up for my phone to be ringing in the middle of the night. I saw who it was calling, I answered, and I knew it was bad. Pulled on some clothes and shoes, jumped in my car and drove around. I was only 4 minutes away, so no time to think other than “get there, see what you can do” and “be ready for anything”. I pulled into the driveway. An ambulance out front, the front door open. And there you were, laying on the floor in the passageway of the house I grew up in.
(I’m still growing up – still learning, still growing – I think you’d appreciate that. I never had the courage to tell you something like that before, but I do now.)
Laying there surround by medical staff, trying to revive you. What was it, about 1 or 2 AM? So I stayed clear while they did their job. Sat in the kitchen while M cried. Looked after her as best I could. One of the medical staff spoke to us in the kitchen, said they were doing all they could. Soon afterwards, came the expected news. Forty minutes working on you and no response at all. It was time for them to stop and call the police because that was protocol.
The officers who attended were very good. Explaining the process, what they had to do and why. We needed a funeral home to come and take you away for now, but who? You were so organised in many ways, but this came along a bit quick for you to be ready. If you’d had a funeral home chosen already, it would have been much easier for us there, that night. Suddenly, seemingly important decisions needed to be made on the spot. Well we did the best we could, as ill-prepared as we were, M and me.
The funeral home staff took a while to arrive, but really that’s understandable. A couple of people would have received their own phone calls in the middle of the night, have to get up, scrub up, and dress up, and arrive to deal with you.
While waiting, we dressed you. Changed you out of your pyjamas and put some comfortable clothes on you. It was relatively easy. I was surprised at how light you were, so easy to move around. And so at peace. The memory of your face then is already fading, but I will always remember how it felt. Taking care of you one last time, while you rested, comfortable at last.
They staff that arrived were great. Communication, understanding, sincerity, care, consideration. They showed you every respect and showed us every care. We wrapped you in white, so that we could lift you onto the gurney. And then you left.
I saw you again, later, but it wasn’t the same. You weren’t there any more. The life and spirit had all passed. You were made up so well, so natural, so neat in your suit, you looked good, but you weren’t there any more. I could tell, and I felt a little sad for it.
I visited your final resting place just over a week ago. There with your mum, and your dad alongside. That was what you wanted, I’m glad you had made that known. I didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t seen the new memorial stone for you yet. I thought I might get a little teary. Thought I might want to talk out loud to you. Get angry or something. But there was nothing obvious wanting to come out. It’s just life. This happened and I was there to help you in the end. I just deal with it. Just do what needs to be done and keep going. I don’t really know any other way. Is there any other way? Maybe not when I’m me.
Oh the grief has been sneaky. It’s been bad. It has just disabled me at times this year. It has left me conscious but unable to think, unable to process a thought or make even the smallest decision sometimes. Grief has trapped me in bed, unable to get up all day. Unable to function, unable to look after myself. Unable to feel anything more than fear and oppression. Grief has dragged along depression and switched my brain around so that I disbelieved anything people said to me, so that I felt isolated from everyone, hated myself and couldn’t bear another day of it all.
It’s been a tough year. I don’t blame you. I don’t blame anyone (anymore). It’s just who I am at this time and how it’s effected me and how I’ve needed to process it. And it’s probably not over yet, may never be, but I’m learning how to deal with it. Relearning how to be me, rebuilding from the ground up. Not patching little holes of pain, but learning how to really live all that is life – the easy and the difficult times. All the emotions. All the feelings. The highs and lows and the quiet times between. It all means something and I’m learning that, bit by bit, with some great help.
I don’t wish that we’d had more time. I just wish that I hadn’t lived under so much fear that I hesitated to talk to you about my thoughts, about all these questions I had and about all that you might have been able to share with me. That’s my only regret. I wasn’t brave enough with you. But It’s taught me bravery. I’ve become much braver, I’ve become more of the person I always wanted to be. And I can thank you for that.
I know I’m a day or two late, writing this.
(Wasn’t I always a little late getting things done for you? But you never rushed or pushed me, you just let me know how much you appreciated the assistance.)
The last three days I’ve been celebrating Christmas, with family and friends. Celebrating life and being thankful for those people around me.
So today was the day to write this. Today I was ready, finally. To think about it all, to mark the occasion, to talk about and honour you. To say “hey, I missed you this year Dad, but I thought about you, as I always have, and I’ll keep you alive in my heart.”