Perhaps the hardest thing this year has been the death of my Father in Law aka Dad on March 31st. To say it was fast is an understatement really. He was ill very late December (after Christmas) and in January with pneumonia and an elevated heart rate. During the X ray of his lungs there was some shadowing that could be pneumonia or something more. In early Feb after tests and waiting, we got the diagnosis of stage 4, inoperable lung cancer. By this stage we could all see dad was ill, he was losing weight looking frail, coughing. 37 days later he died.
He died at home. There were moments where it was unbelievable hard and so much of that fell to mom. She was so desperate for the boys (my sons) not to see him ill, to keep memories of him as he was. She didn’t want me to be taken away for what they needed, she was insistent that I keep doing things with them….educating (we home educate so that’s my kind of job). So we visited once a week and my hubby did the same. Maybe I should have argued, or ignored. I feel I should have helped more but there is nothing I can change now.
In what I now know was the last few days I was able to get over more, the boys are independent and my eldest is more than capable of holding the fort, seeing everyone fed and knows what to do in an emergency and this time when I asked mom said yes.
Dad’s tutor spread rapidly to his brain, he was in pain and it took time for that to get managed well enough. By the time he wasn’t in pain, he was struggling to find words, to communicate and he was upset and it was hard. He wasn’t eating, he was tiny and felt like skin and bones. I am so grateful that I could help. That I was able to calm him down, talk to him, help with getting him up and down, move furniture round to get the hospital bed and commode in the living room. Mom said I helped, it felt a tiny drip, but she said it helped her and him a lot. I couldn’t be with him at the very end, I was at home with the kids and my husband and his brother and mom were there but I am glad I kept my promise (and mom’s) that no-one would take him away and that he would die at home. One last thing we could do for him, even when he couldn’t speak or really move or do anything for himself.
Dad was an active man, with a work ethic that my middle son seems to have inherited. He was up and to work, with a couple of hours at the allotment before and after work to help put food on the table. When he retired, he was laying slabs, putting up fences, fixing doors and doing all sorts of DIY for people around and about his neighbourhood. He was always outside, never still, amazing with cars and DIY -oh and jigsaws! Addicted to Farm story (he’d done all of it) and always ready to help. Maybe it was better fast, because he didn’t feel like he was living when he was sleeping and just inside and his verve had gone-before the diagnosis and just after he said as much to me.
I wish it was different, I wish he’d had longer and he’d been more prepared and less scared. What I realised was that no one ever talked to me about death; that people wanted to shelter the children but actually information, gentle information, was needed. They needed to prepare, to get their heads around it all as well as they could to recognise what was coming as much as we, the ‘grown ups’ did. That this was new and uncharted, like parenthood…..it would be great if it came with a manual or if there were classes that you’d done at school.
The last time the boys saw dad was difficult. He became agitated as we walked in, it took a while to calm him and I was focused on that whilst my hubby talked to the boys and helped them. My youngest asked Dad if he wanted a hug, it was just the right thing, dad was calm enough and said yes, but don’t hurt me…don’t squeeze too tight. My littlest held him and it was the most loving moment. A moment of such connection. I will never forget it.
I stayed that day. The next day my hubby went over. That was the day he died.
He taught me a lot in those last few weeks and days, a lot. I did things with calm and strength I never knew I would or could. I spoke from my heart words that I didn’t know I had.
I created a piece of art work and a poem afterwards-I was resistant to it I didn’t feel like painting or writing but I sat at my desk and knew if I didn’t I’d be making this harder than it had to be. Because creating is how I process and work out what I think and what is and isn’t and how it all makes sense or doesn’t. Creating is how I deal with life and death is a part of life.
I didn’t understand
before you showed me
before you called me
before you said
“I don’t know where I am.”
How deep my compassion for you ran
How rooted my need to help was
I didn’t know I had the words
I didn’t know I had the strength
to hold you
to dig into the meaning of
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
I hadn’t a clue what it was to be powerless
until you showed me
“Don’t let them take me away.”
my heart fractured
I had no idea how profoundly you would touch me
Until you said, “Daughter help me.”
Nor how grateful I would be
that I could
or how lost I would feel knowing
that you were going
“I’m dying.” you said
I told no lies and I agreed, but not now
because right now we’re talking
“I won’t be here tomorrow.”
I’m glad I said, if thats true, I’m glad we have today
I didn’t realise that I had such a space
I could hold for you
and for me
for all of us
“I don’t know what I want.” you said
holding your hand
ready to help when you do know
I didn’t know what it was to weather a storm knowing there would be loss
that the breaking of the clouds and the the thunder
would be an ending
I am still wrestling with what I think about death and what comes after and what life after death really is….I tell my kids that you leave behind all the lives you’ve touched, all the hearts you’ve affected, memories that people hold of you, things you’ve taught, done, your actions, your words in the lives of the people who are still here. That’s life after death that I can prove, that I can feel and see. Other things I don’t know, I don’t know whatI think happens to our energy, our essence. Maybe there is or isn’t still figuring that one out…I will let you know if I come to any conclusions about what I believe….