Losing a Loved One
Losing a parent is a grief-filled traumatic experience. We as humans understand that losing loved ones is inevitable. The NHS offer advice and support to anyone affected by losing a loved one, but despite all the advice and help that exists, nothing can prepare us for the gut-wrenching moment we lose or are about to lose a parent.
On the 15th of August 2021, I woke up as a middle-aged man who was lucky enough to say I had two healthy parents. I woke up with the same ambitions, the same thoughts and feelings as when I went to bed the previous evening. But this day would change my life forever.
Later that day, my mum called me to tell me the hospital had found a large tumour in my dad’s oesophagus. Receiving that news was a shock to my system. I feel like it’s an eventuality that every child refuses to acknowledge until it happens. The horror of potentially losing a parent is something so painful that our brains seemingly refuse to contemplate it. Even after this phone call, I refused to acknowledge that he might die.
Many hospital appointments followed to distinguish if this tumour was benign or malignant. On the 11th of November, my mum called, and this dread came over my whole body, and I just knew it was bad news. Straight away, I could hear the distress in my mum’s voice, and she explained to me the diagnosis was terminal, and they couldn’t do anything to help dad due to his age (76). The rest of that conversation was a blur, and I couldn’t even say anything comforting to her.
At that moment and for the rest of that week, I went on a trip down memory lane.
I kept thinking about how hard my dad used to work when I was younger. His work effort and desire to provide for us was unbelievable. It’s something I never appreciated until the last few years.
One particular memory as a child that sticks out in my head was when he used to bounce me on his knee and sing this old World War I song to me, called Inky Pinky Parlez Vous! The lyrics to me as a child were hilarious. Honestly, I don’t think you would find many parents singing that to their son or daughter in this day and age. But it was a different time then, and it’s one of my most treasured memories of him and it paints a perfect picture of him. I have always viewed him as being perfectly imperfect.
Growing up, I never saw him afraid of anything. He was always fearless. The only time I ever saw him cry was when my Grandad Roy passed away. I always felt he wished he was more like my Grandad, but they were both completely different but equally great. When my Grandad passed away after his brave battle with prostate cancer, I experienced that pain of losing someone you love. I saw how difficult it was for everyone, not just myself. It was a feeling I never want, to experience again.
Family and Friends
I think about my mum a lot and the impact my dad passing away will have on her. They have been married for 40+ years, and I cannot imagine being in someone’s presence for that long and then having to live on your own. She is the person that will need the most support in the long term, though it will be hard for family and friends to offer the right level of support. Everyone will want to be there for Mum with the best intentions, but we all have to get that balance right and not suffocate her.
We as a family will have special occasions where we will all undoubtedly have to put on a brave face. But these occasions will be met with a twinge of sadness that my dad will not be there to crack an inappropriate joke or tell a relative how much he hates the football team they support. When I make a cup of tea, dad won’t be there to make sure I’m making it just the way he likes.
My parents never really had friends. They adored their family, and that was all they needed. But in the last few years, they met another couple — Tony and Sandra. When they walk into a room, my dad’s face lights up. I am so thankful they have managed to forge a friendship with two of the kindest people I have ever met.
The funeral is something I keep pondering. Standing in a line shaking peoples’ hands, some of whom I barely know, when all I want to do is sit there and watch football with Dad one last time. I can’t even imagine smiling or laughing anymore after he’s gone. I feel every person at some point has taken their parents for granted, me included — it’s not until the prospect of losing them is upon you that you truly appreciate everything that they have sacrificed for you.
I have learned already that there is no blueprint for you to follow in this scenario. No one can tell you what to expect as grief impacts us all differently. You have to abide by that old cliché: ‘one day at a time’. Time has enabled me to forge a routine that helps me keep functioning — but I feel guilty that my life is continuing.
People that have lost a parent will know there’s no clock on how long you should feel a certain way. Take each day as it comes and try to make yourself and your parents proud.
The prospect of losing my dad terrifies me. I am thankful for every minute I have spent with him, and I will treasure every moment left. Dad is fighting every day and showing everyone just how tough he is.
As I sit here at Christmas writing the ending to this article, I am remembering so many great Christmas memories involving my dad.
The doctors think this could be the last Christmas he is alive. If this was the last Christmas, I want to thank him for being perfectly imperfect. As we celebrated Christmas day this year surrounded by friends, I kept looking at my dad, and his expressions were bittersweet. You could see how much he enjoyed himself, but when we all started to say we were tired, he heartbreakingly said he was ok and wasn’t tired — he didn’t want the day to end.
Whatever happens from now, I hope dad continues to fight one day at a time. We are all incredibly proud of how he is handling his diagnosis, and personally, Dad has given me so many valuable lessons and great memories. I pray we have a few more years to make even more memories.
I love you, dad.