It is 19 years today since my Dad died. I don’t think there is a day during that time when I haven’t missed him and wanted to talk to him.
The year he died, it was a Sunday. It wasn’t just any Sunday though, it was Mothering Sunday. It might sound silly but it almost feels like there are two days every year that we lost him.
He died as a result of liver cancer, which was a secondary cancer from bowel cancer.
Detection of bowel cancer has come a long way since my Dad, and therefore more people survive these days – there are plenty of places to get facts and figures about it if you are really interested but I can only speak from personal experience as I am not a doctor or expert.
My Dad was the type of person who was rarely unwell. I can only remember a couple of times where he was too poorly to go to work. The year before he died, he kept getting a sore tummy, and it got bad enough for him to visit the doctors. He was prescribed laxatives and told he was constipated. He returned to the doctors regularly as the pain didn’t subside. Eventually in the October they took him into hospital for tests. This was a joke as he was put into a side ward, and basically ignored for a week before being sent home, having nothing done to him to find out why he was in pain. Then about a week later, he was hemorrhaging from his bowel. An ambulance was called and he was rushed into hospital. Two days later he had a biopsy and was given the news that nobody wants to hear, that it was cancer, and it was so far advanced that it had spread and his liver was barely functioning – the doctor had problems understanding that he had not been suffering as less than 15% function should have shown up something! He was terminally ill. It was frightening to hear. He took the news the way he dealt with everything in life, in a practical manner. He needed to get organised so as not to leave too much for my Mum to do when he was gone. He was in hospital for a while so they could fit a colostomy bag. He did get chemotherapy to try to ease his symptoms and give him a quality of life, but it didn’t make any difference other than to make him feel terrible for a few days after each treatment. Mum and Dad renewed their wedding vows in the chapel at the hospital. Dad had become friendly with the hospital Chaplin during all his visits, as anyone who knew my Dad knows, there is nothing he enjoyed more than a good argument with someone who could parry with him, and what better subject than religion! He asked her if she would conduct his funeral and she agreed to this. She was a great character, stomping about in her Doc Martens! He then set about researching funeral directors, as he wanted someone who he felt would be best for my Mum. His health went down hill very quickly. It was almost as if his body gave up trying to hide how frail it had become. He was on ridiculously strong pain killers and would often have amazing hallucinations – anyone who has been to my house may have wondered about a framed rather tatty Mickey Mouse poster we have at the bottom of the stairs, well, this was on the wall of the room Dad often slept in, and he would often talk to Mickey, but he said he was sitting on the bed with him! He was soon on IV morphine. It was about this time that I think my Dad left us, but his body went on for another couple of weeks.
It was midday on Sunday 17th March when his body finally gave up. He died at home with me and my Mum with him. We had called my brother to say time was short, but by the time he got there, it was too late for him to make peace with his Dad.
I was amazed at how much there was to do after someone dies. The doctor called everyone who needed to be informed immediately.
Dad had been a great believer in organ donation and he had made it very clear of his desire regarding this. However, because of having had chemotherapy all they could use were his eye lenses. I do wonder if he would have had the treatment if he would have known this to be the case.
Dad wanted no flowers, but money to go to the local cancer unit. The chapel at the crematorium was heaving, My Dad was a person everyone knew, and so many people came to pay their respects – this actually made me slightly angry that they made the time for the funeral, but it would have been so much better to have spent some time with him during his last few months.
Some people came back to the house afterwards, and it was a lovely celebration of his life, as people talked about his life and the things he loved. I think he would have approved as we laughed remembering him, even though plenty of tears had been shed.
Life goes on. He is missed, but the volume in which he is missed, is a sign of how much he meant in life. The boys may never of met him, but they know him through stories and conversations. I think he would have been a doting Grandad.
I love you Daddy xxxx