I said goodbye to my father for the last time this week. After a two and a half year battle with colon cancer, my wonderful dad, who taught me so much, passed away on Sunday, May 19th.
It was so strange. When my mother died, I wasn’t there. It was a car accident and, of course, no one had any forewarning that it would happen. When my father died I was at his side, holding his hand. And we knew in advance that it was going to happen because he had been referred to palliative care. But it was still so sudden… we had been told “weeks to six months”, but he died only two weeks after starting palliative… one week to the day after he told us he had been transferred.
I don’t think even he could wrap his head around how fast the deterioration happened. It was shocking. I had no idea it could happen so fast.
In some ways it was a blessing; he was in so much pain during that final week, and it is so hard to watch someone you love suffer. And yet… I didn’t want him to go. I didn’t want to say goodbye.
I still don’t think it has really sunk in that he is gone. I know in my head that it is so, but I’m not sure the rest of me really “gets” it yet. In some ways, I’m not sure that I ever will.
When you lose someone, a part of you always asks “why?” Why did he have to go? Why did he have to die like that? Why would such a wonderful man, a hero in every sense of the word, have to go through something like that?
And there’s the sense of loss, of course. Not just for myself. But for my children, who are so young that their memories of him will quickly fade. I promised my father that I would tell them stories and that they would know him… but stories cannot compare to the experience of having a loving, living grandpa active in their lives. There is so much that he could have taught them and shown them. And he loved them so very much.
I know that no one dies before their time. I know that no one deliberately chooses cancer or pain. But as with everything else in our lives, these things are brought into our lives through our thoughts and the energy we give out; they are the physical manifestation of beliefs that we hold within us. And I learned some things in the week preceding my father’s death that helped me to understand why died the way he did.
But it’s still so very hard.
What happens now?
Someone told me that when a parent dies, you’re never the same again. There is “before” and there is “after”. I’m not sure what happens now. I know I need to sleep, and I need to process the events of the past week before anything else happens. But I also know this: I will choose to turn this into a catalyst; my father taught me that when bad things happen, they will either make you stronger or they will make you bitter, and the choice is always yours.
Saying goodbye is never easy. But going forward from here, I choose to take the things I learned from my dad and remember all the things that made him the wonderful man he was. I will remember his sense of humour, his wisdom, his vast array of knowledge on just about every conceivable topic, the incredible love he had for his children and grandchildren, his kindness, generosity, optimism, courage and determination. I will take these things into my heart and I will become stronger for it.
It’s what my dad would have wanted for me, and it’s what I want for myself.
Dream. Believe. Achieve.
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Heartdeep hugs, Nathalie.
So much of our experience is similar. My father died in 1982, also of colon cancer, and I asked myself the same questions you are asking now. Why so young? Why so much pain? Like yours, my deepest regret is that my children never really knew the grandfather who loved them so much.
When the second parent dies, at least this happened for me, you experience a new sense of adulthood. You are now the lead generation. Over the years since my father died, I’ve come to believe that his true legacy was to enable me to become somewhat like him. A passing of the torch. You are already a strong, amazing woman, and I can only imagine the splendor to come!
Huge hugs, warm thoughts, and heartfelt condolences for you and yours,
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Thank you, Carole. I promised him that I wouldn’t let my children forget him. I’ve started singing one of the songs that he liked to my kids at night… it’s Irish Lullaby, but we call it Grandpa’s Song. He used to sing it to me when I was a baby and he said it always made me stop crying. I need to come up with other ways to help them remember. He loved them so much…
My thoughts are with you and your family, Nathalie. The loss of a parent is very hard to take and though one learns to live with it and, eventually, to find joy in life again, it is a life altering experience. Everything we go through changes us in some way and loss has a massive impact upon who we are and how we see life. All we can do, I think, is to treasure the memories and to hold those we love close as tightly as we can for as long as we can. It will be nine years on 4th June since I lost my Dad and I still can’t really believe he’s not there anymore. The pain no longer takes my breath away but my heart still aches. However, I have to believe that he lives on through me and through my children and that in some way he is still around, even if it’s just because I hold him in my heart. Big hugs sweetheart. X
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Hi Molly… that’s the thing that’s getting me most over the last couple of days. I see pictures of him around and it just seems unfathomable that he’s gone. It’s almost like I can recite the fact, without understanding the meaning of it. It doesn’t make sense that he’s not here.
My deepest sympathy and heartfelt thoughts with you, Nathalie.
It was quite a battle. My godmother, RIP, also passed away at a young age from colon cancer, but from the effects of the chemo, while her cancer was actually cleared. I was not there, by her side, but she has always been with me and gave me some beautiful times and love even my parents could not give.
That was sudden and rough. She had led a tough life, by her choosing. So, I learned from that well, no matter what culture demands of us, one needs to find their own song and sing it.
That is what remains.
Hi A., I’m glad to hear you are learning to sing your own song. I think your godmother would be happy about that. It sounds like she loved you a lot, and would be so proud of you for finding your path.
Dear Nathalie, my heart is with you and your family now.
I don’t know which takes longer to process the loss: the head or the heart. Our parents and elders are like the immortal to us. They have always been there, a constant in our lives, and for them not to be, well, nothing seems to make sense any more. Even if one has had time to prepare for it, the loss is still so hard. And especially if the person is one you spend time with every day.
I wish I had known this wonderful community of souls I’ve come to know on all of the various blogs at the time my own father passed. I wish I’d had that spiritual knowledge and understanding then. I believe knowing what you know now and believing what you believe will certainly help you be at peace with your father’s passing. From my heart, I give advice from personal experience. Listen to your heart, mind, body, and spirit now, even though they are all reeling with grief and disbelief. Rest as much as you can. Talk about it as much as you feel you need to. Ask for help when you need it and don’t try to handle too much. Allow yourself to feel the whole range of emotions between disbelief, sadness, anger, depression, and finally, new hope in Life After. Let it be and let yourself grieve in your own way in your own time. There is no set time or set way to do it.
For a long time I thought that if I didn’t grieve enough I would be dishonoring my father. But I learned eventually on my own that I was dishonoring him more by not living. Your words imply that you have considered this already. That you are able to write about it now shows such strength in your spirit.
Your father must have been a great man, and his pride in you and love for you will forever be. Bless you.
Thank you Ayla. My dad really believed he was going to beat this… and I used to joke with him that of course he’d beat it because my dad could fix anything! He had an engineering background, and he really could fix anything. Except this.
Mostly what I want to do right now is sleep. I’m exhausted. But I have my little ones to look after, so that’s not going to happen. I have to come up with another way of dealing with it. I do know that I won’t let it break me, no matter how much it hurts. My dad would be the first one to tell me that life goes on and I need to go out and live it. The best way I can honour him is to go do something awesome with my life. What that will be, I’m not sure yet… but I will figure it out.
Oh hon…I didn’t know. I am so sorry that I didn’t know and didn’t reach out to you during this time.
I love you so much and I love your Dad’s spirit to keep fighting. His story is amazing.
I really don’t know what else to say other than my heart breaks for you and I’m sending you all the love I have. xoxo
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Thank you… (hugs)