February 17 2016. A date that will forever be etched into my being. That was the day my Dad passed from this world to the next.
Before I continue with the story of what happened, the lead up, the aftermath and beyond, I want you to know that there is no harm intended in this writing. I am writing it as a thing that I hope will help people in similar situations and perhaps bring some comfort. I am also writing it as a form of the healing and grieving process we all have to go through at various stages in our lives.
The lead up to that day was the same as it had been for as long as I can remember.
Dad and I had a very strained relationship, if at all any relationship. We were like this my whole life. He lived his life and I mine, separate but always knowing we were there. In and out of each others lives, sometimes destructively, sometimes very nice. In fact, the last phone conversation I had with him was really nice. We spoke about my spiritual work and he asked me to ask “whoever I pray to” to help him (that really took me by surprise!!).
My Dad was an ill man, he suffered with C.O.P.D (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) an illness that destroys the part of the lungs that carry the oxygen into the blood stream, and a few other complaints. He’d been in and out of hospital more times than I can tell you, so when it came to that day, I dismissed it as “he’ll be alright, he’s got loads of time left”… how wrong I was!
I received a phone call from my Uncle, Dads brother, the day before to tell me that my Dad was in a bad way. I questioned him, such was the way of it, and while he was talking to me I could hear the noise my Dad was making in the background and I asked my Uncle if that was him, he replied that it was, that it was him trying to breathe… That shook me! He said about me going through to see my Dad and I told him I’d try to get through. I still wasn’t convinced in myself that he was about to pass!
I just went about my day as usual, but thinking about my dad all the same. No matter what we went through in life, no matter the hurt, anger, pain or misery. No matter how much bad he did to me, I always wished him well and I always sent him healing (when I learned I could do that) Of course over the years I’ve said some not so positive things about him and how he treated me, but, he was still my Dad after all of it.
I went to bed as usual and woke to a message from my Auntie (dads sister) asking if I’d heard about him and if I was going through to see him. Again, I said that I’d try to get through, she asked was I aware he might not make it through the day? I’ll be honest and tell you that my heart about burst out of my chest! At the end of it, I ended up going to see him with my Auntie and Uncle.
My nerves were shattered
I was completely terrified of what I was going to see my dad like when I got there, but as usual I did my usual talk the hind legs off a donkey thing and tried to hide it. We got there and my mother had called just as we were going into the hospital, she forewarned me “are you sure you know what to expect when you see that man lying there?” I of course was a little nippy with her and said “of course I didn’t!!”. My uncle and auntie walked into my dad’s room… I waited, to prepare myself for what I was about to see.
I walked into that room to see my dad was lying on the bed, on his side looking nothing like that man I had last seen. He looked horrific to me. I was completely knocked by it and my words were “oh f**k!”. That was my dad lying there. No matter what we went, or put each other through, he was still my dad and I love him… more than i’d ever have let on, much to my regret.
One of my aunties and my uncle left because she had to go home to get changed and sort some things at home, such is the way. As we all know, life goes on no matter what’s happening in our wee worlds. We were waiting on my younger brother and his mum to come and see dad too. They arrived a short time after I did.
There was the four of us all sat round my dad’s bed, my wee brother, his mum, my auntie and myself. We were all just chatting away, sharing memories, giggling and talking to dad asking did he remember this and that… all the while he was laying there, like he was asleep. We knew he could hear us because at times his breathing would change, like an acknowledgement from him. My brother’s mum said about putting music on for my dad, so I put on Queen for him (his favourite band) I think it was Queen 2, but I ended up changing it to Live at Wembley ’86 because it was so much better and he’d have enjoyed that more. So we were all sat around and all talking, there were pee breaks and just a wee walk around the ward.
I got a chance to be on my own with him
I asked my auntie to give me a minute to say a few things that had to get off my chest. Those things shall remain private, but I will say that for the first time, I sat and told my dad I loved him. I asked if he could hear me and his breathing that was shallow and fast changed, it was like he took a big inhale and then went back to his fast shallow breathing.
He got changed around in his bed, the nurses came in to do their thing. Then we went back in. I was sat by his side, with my auntie, brother and his mum. I decided to put the railing down on the side of his bed, my wee auntie asked “what are you doing?!” and I said “don’t worry, if he falls, I’ll catch him” which we all had a giggle to. I took my dads hand in mine and covered it with my other hand. I went to take my top hand away and his breathing did that big inhale! It was like him saying “put that back!” even my auntie noticed that! So, I put my hand back.
We’ll be ok!
We were at the point of the guitar solo on the Live at Wembley album and I said to my dad to “listen to that, dad, amazing stuff” all the while still holding his hand in mine. The conversation kinda dulled, as is the way, and in the moment I said a prayer for my dad. I asked the angels that if it was his time, then to please let him go easily. I said that it was alright, we were all okay and if he had to go, he had to go. I said to dad, in my head, that it’s okay to go dad, that we’ll be okay.
I was holding his hand in mine, my wee auntie sat next to me, my brother and his mum sitting opposite side of the bad, the guitar solo was finished and going into the song “Now I’m Here” and suddenly dad moved! As if he was straightening himself, at the same time he breathed out! I looked to my brothers mum, she went to get the nurse. I looked at my brother, who was only 15 at the time, he went out of the room and my wee auntie next to me…
I was still holding his hand in mine as the nurse came to check him. He was gone.
In what felt an eternity of auntie crying, phoning my uncle to come back, phoning my mother, and making sure my brother was okay, auto pilot kicked in… I think it did for us all. The staff came in and did their thing for my dad one last time, then we went back in. Uncle and auntie came back too and we sat for a bit just hugging and talking. Then came time to go home…
We were all leaving, we all gave Dad a kiss and I said to him “sleep tight big man”. When they’d gone out the room, I stood at the foot of my dads bed looking at him thinking that this is “not f***ing real!!” It was just so, so surreal for me. I remember shaking my head in just disbelief! This wee guy in that bed had survived more than most have, he’d fought all his life to one degree or another, never gave in on what he believed or wanted and here he was, lying in front of me passed away! The last thing I did before leaving that room was give him the thumbs up and said to him “see you later big man” and that was the last time I saw my dad.
We all went to our different houses and families. I went home to my cats. I got in and went to make a cup of tea, I was standing in my kitchen and looked at my phone to go onto Facebook, pretty much still on auto pilot at this point. I saw that my wee brother had put a status up saying that dad had passed, and it broke me! Completely broke the seal and I cried like a wee boy! How was this fair? Why did he have to go? Why? why? why? That was my dad!! I hoped that in time to come i’d get to have a father son relationship with him that I chased after my whole life, and was ripped away from me! I’d never get a chance to talk to him again, whether to tell him to “eff off” or laugh with him like our last phone call!!
The next few weeks and moths were weird really, loads of conflicting emotions. How could I be feeling like this when we barely got on or we barely spoke? How could I justify crying over him and what was lost to me? I could do it because, he was still my dad at the end of the day and I had to keep reminding myself of that fact. I’ve said prayers for him and still talk to him, I even put up a lantern for him on his birthday with my other brother.
His passing was, and is, still a hard thing to grasp. I still get flashbacks of him passing, of holding his hand and feeling him go. For about the first year of him passing, I was absolutely terrified of death. I mean literally in my belly scared! It was horrible to feel that, and it still haunts me a little today, but, through my spiritual practice it helps to take it away and make it more manageable. I put one foot in front of the other, no matter how slowly, and I keep going. My dad passing was hard, but no matter how hard it was, it is a blessing in disguise too in the sense that there is an air of freedom. No more worrying about if he’s alright or not, no more worrying what crap is gonna manifest between us.. the usual stuff. With that said, I miss him greatly. In our good times, we really did have some awesome laughs. His daft dancing, his wiiiild stories, us sitting around his kitchen table having our “sessions”, sitting on the couch watching daft telly or listening to music…
How do I deal with it?
I keep moving forward trying to be the best that I can be, I talk to him in ways I should have while he was physically here but was unable to, I play music for him. If I’ve got Queen on the telly, I’ll say to him “you watching Dad?”. I genuinely believe we have a better relationship now. He lets me know he’s around, although not as much as I’d like, but such is the way of spirit. I still have my “bad days” where I think of that day and how things could have been different, but, I come out of it and know he’s still around doing his thing for us all, in his own way.
I’ll miss him for the rest of my life, I’ll miss what we had when we had it, but mostly, I’ll miss what we should have had.
Sleep tight big man, love you!