I woke up to my phone ringing at 3:30am this morning; it was a friend who isn’t the type to call me in the middle of the night so immediately I knew there had to be something wrong. It was news that nobody could ever prepare for; her Dad had sadly passed away from a sudden heart-attack. The shock and heartache portrayed through her trembling voice and tears… Nobody knows how to react to that news, let alone where to begin with what to say to the people who have lost someone they love.
The words that rang alarm bells for me were “when does it get easier?”
I lost my own Dad 16 years ago and I guess that’s the reason she called me; in sheer hope and desperation that I may have an answer or magic recipe to help her cope with the devastation, grief and collapse of the world she has grown up in.
My Dad was a hero! Some might think I am biased but he genuinely was the type of guy you couldn’t help but love. He was tall, dark and handsome with the gift of the gab! He was ambitious without being arrogant, generous beyond belief and had an aura about him that earned respect when he walked into a room. He was sporty, competitive and knew how to be one of the lads but was still the gentlest of giants according to my friends growing up. He had the greatest sense of humour, knew how to entertain and certainly wasn’t afraid to be the brunt of a joke. He really was the best Dad a girl could wish for as cliché as it sounds.
Dad had battled with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia for 3 long years; at no point did anybody think Dad would die because dying wasn’t an option he was willing to take; the way that he fought was admirable. I never heard him complain once that he had a terminal illness, not even a mention to his friends. I never heard him say he felt sick from the chemotherapy or that he felt too mouth sore to eat food. I never heard him say he was afraid to lose his hair which was a trademark look throughout his life with the help of Black & White. I never heard him complain about the quantity of pills and injections that he endured each day. He never didn’t turn up for work due to illness, to the point he hosted meetings in the hospital if he wasn’t allowed home. And he certainly was never too ill to make time for his wife and 3 girls, creating magical memories. When I say his bravery deserves an award, I know his consultants, doctors and nurses would second that!
I remember the last time I saw him with such precision, things had taken a turn for the worse and he was being moved to a different hospital; he was barely conscious, had wires, machines and patches attached to every visible part of his body but I knew he wasn’t ready to stop fighting. Maybe I was naïve, maybe it was my age but I still had hope in my heart that it was just until next time… not goodbye.
So back to the question my friend asked “when does it get easier?”
I didn’t have an answer for her. I knew I couldn’t fix her pain. I knew I couldn’t assume that I knew what she was going through. Everyone copes differently!
The harsh reality for me is it hasn’t ever got easier. My life is simply very different. A huge piece of my heart has been shattered, the first man I ever loved will always be missing and our family will always be incomplete. No time can fix any of this; my life has been broken beyond any kind of repair, there is no sticky plaster or healing… Not even time.
Grief is always there for me. Sometimes I think I am doing ok and then all of a sudden the wrath hits me hard! Over time I have learned to understand some of the triggers; the film we watched the afternoon he passed, the song I heard walking into the church to celebrate his life, any black 3 series BMW as he had always chosen these as his company car, the smell of Jean-Paul Gaultier “Le Male” his fragrance of choice. Then there are everyday events through life that make the missing jigsaw piece in my life even more apparent; Birthdays, Christmas, promotions, moving into my first home, more recently my wedding day and hopefully one day in the future the birth of my own children.
I still feel hurt and sometimes anger. The thing that hurts me the most today is seeing the pain in Mums eyes and trying to imagine just how hard it must be for her to bring up 3 girls who are a constant reminder of her soulmate who has been stolen away. She has been a rock and Dad certainly would be proud, as are each of us to have this unbelievably strong woman as our Mum! The anger stems from frustration of the cruel world we live in; I call them the why’s; why my Dad, why take him so young, why us, why do the good ones go too soon?
I have muddled through the past 16 years and have found a way to cope with all of these emotions I feel still to this day; sometimes I cry, sometimes I take a deep breath and choke down the lump in my throat, sometimes I visit his gravestone and talk to him as if he were on the end of the phone, sometimes I want to sit in a room on my own and simply just replay the memories that I shared with Dad. I have learnt to cope because I know he would want me to live everyday as if it was my last just as he had.
In spite of all of the emotions I feel, the one that stands out to me the most is that fact that I consider myself to be very lucky. I was lucky enough to call this amazing man my Dad, even in the short space of time we shared this earth together he taught me so much about being the best person I can be, I have so many incredible memories of our time together and experiences that we shared, he helped create an untouchable bond between our family that is strong enough to overcome anything as long as we have each other. I know he is the angel who watches over us all.
I have learnt to live without my Dad, but it isn’t easier.
His legacy lives on in us all.
Now I find myself asking, am I alone with these feelings?
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