Reminders and Grief.

It is now two years since my Dad died. The grief has been hitting hard. Just thinking about Christmas, thinking about the family time to come, his birthday, triggers. The annual family gathering for his brothers and sister and their families, once again a beautiful time all together, but the biggest reminder that he is gone.

And yesterday, my highschool friend and work colleague, lost his long term Tai Kwon Do training partner to cancer. Wasted away in a hospital bed as his internal organs shut down. Reminiscent of my own Dad’s failing body. My friend talks about death and repeats the words of his own religious father.

“Bury your dead. And take care of the living.”

A reminder, to focus on the life around you. These are the people that deserve your time, your love. Share your energy with them while you are able to. 

For me, this is a positive focus reminder. Yet I also know that this won’t lessen the feelings I have. Love for my Dad. Despite the life we had. Despite all that happened. Despite the hard, unreasonable person he was at times. He still loved me. His partner tells me he was always so thankful that I had visited. 

Even though he wasn’t particularly good at expressing it. He made an effort. A few words. Remembering birthdays. Always welcoming, supportive, interested.

The love of a father. The love that I missed whilst a child. The love I still look for. Crave. Does any of this help me today? Help me with my own wants/needs? Help me with my grief? 

Only in expressing all this, will there be some benefit. Sharing my story, my words, is the only way I know to let this out. May that be enough.

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Hi Dad (365 days).

Hi Dad,

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.”
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Missing Feelings.

It’s hitting me now, I miss my Dad
Scared to let go of anything
Associated with memories of him
Susceptible to regret, loss, fear
Low health heightens sad feelings

.

[ It’s been six months since he passed away. And now 29 years after we moved into Mum’s house, she is downsizing and my second home will be demolished. Helping Mum sort and pack for the move into a smaller house, coming across old memories, having to let go, is reminding me of what has been and what is yet to come dealing with Dad’s life and death. ]

Empty Shoes.

Walk in your shoes
Get to know you
They are a size big or two
Always bigger than me were you

I look up to you
Even more, now that I miss you
The stories I hear now
Tell me so much I never knew

I always knew the similarities
Matching pieces of personality
Some used to upset me
But now I hold them dearly

What you did that upset many
I understand I can see your view
Don’t agree with it
But in so much your heart was true
And this is what I remember
Of you
.

===

[This was inspired by looking through my father’s shoe collection – many old, some unworn, mostly practical work boots – more reminiscing and seeing photographs of a happy young man. (Photograph by me of a couple of the items). The poem’s structure is a bit rough, but I can’t change it without, you know, changing it. And it’s like my memories of him, good or bad, they are all I have now, so I will learn to love them all.]

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The Date is Set.

Next Tuesday
New Year’s Eve
His Birthday
Final goodbyes.

Family rung
Friends contacted
Notice in the paper
Interstate arrivals.

Final resting place
With his parents
In the country
Near his hometown.

Weather forecast
Hot and dry
As he always preferred
Shade will be required.

Seeing him go
Is not painful
I dressed his body
For this rest.

He’s not here anymore
The little changes,
missing him,
are what hurt the most.

You collapsed on the bed

A phone call
in the middle of the night
A sleepy blur
A dash

Letting myself in
I saw, you on the floor
Surrounded by ambulance officers
and medical equipment

Nothing to do
But wait
Talk
Comfort

I’m sorry, she said
There’s been no response
after forty minutes
He’s gone

Lying there so still
No movement
Not even a heartbeat
Yet calm and Peaceful

You said you were ready
No fear
Just acceptance
Your faith was strong

I held your hand
Just like in the hospital
Beneath a white sheet
Touch to remember

We selected pyjamas
And dressed you then
Talked to you
Closed your eyes
Dignity

Then they came
And took you away
With care and respect
Goodbye, for now

So Thin.

No poem tonight, no words of delight. My father’s in hospital, fighting for his life. I held his thin hands and kissed his cheek. Skin looking pale, body so weak. He struggles to talk, voice comes and goes. Parkinson’s symptoms, oxygen feed in nose. Lungs contain fluid, muscle strength gone. Only weighs 67 kilos, but that’s still more than his son!
His brother visits, the one I remember – already had lots of surgery and medical dilemmas. He’s talking and jokes to elicit a smile. Dad returns joke, mind sharp – no denial.
The board on the wall, has written “when stable”; they’ll check out his lungs, on the operating table. It’s scary to think, of this man just like me; so frail of body, what else do I see? His strength and his love; in the words I catch clearly. (I’m here to remind him, of mutual love dearly.) His fear and discomfort, of these I am known. Still hope for the future, whatever may come. “I’ll see you tomorrow” I say before leaving. And release of his hand, as his face tilts to sleeping.

[something different, once again! 😉 I was just going to write a flow of prose, to express how I feel, to deal with it all. Because that is just who I am, an expressive person. But the rhyme kicked in straight away, with the first sentence, and I just kept going. This is not polished, this is raw, rough, and real life – just like today has been. I don’t know how I feel (about all this) because there is so much feeling happening. I would like to work that out in writing too perhaps, but that’s another story…]