There are so many great wordsmiths out there to choose from so this one was quite difficult. In the end, I decided to go a little personal with this..
My dad died in 2008.
It was a hard time.. a really hard time.
I’m living in Brisbane. At 5.15am on 23rd February 2008 I get a phone call from my sister to say dad had passed away – my life changed in that one phone call.
My dad & I didn’t always have the best relationship. I think it was because we were very similar. When I was growing up, we had A LOT of fights but he was still my dad.
He was larger than life, that’s for sure. But whenever I was with him, I felt safe. I felt protected.
When I moved to Australia, I never knew that our relationship would get so much stronger because of it. I don’t know when it happened but suddenly I would ring my dad every Saturday morning and we would spend a good couple of hours chewing the fat, solving the problems of the world and complain about Australians – one of this favourite things to say was “the only thing wrong with Australia is that it’s full of Australians”.. I have a few other things to add to that list after 13 years of living here but that’s another story for another day.
My dad didn’t have the best health in his later years. In October 2006 I had this horrible moment when I thought I was never going to see him again. Some of the family & I were in Vietnam for one of my brother’s wedding. Dad didn’t make the trip because he had a few health issues. My friends dad had just died and I guess everything combined just made me have this kind of breakdown.
I vowed at that point that I would go home to Christchurch as much as I could because I didn’t know how long I would have my dad around for.
Turns out we only had another 16 months, after a couple of strokes. Including one that meant he couldn’t use his right arm. But my dad was amazing – he learned to write with his left hand. He even managed to keep his driver’s licence, though he didn’t drive as much as he had previously.
There are moments in my life that I remember so clearly. The conversation I had with my dad two weeks before he died has been imprinted on my brain. My parents had recently moved from our family home into a smaller place – I am soooooooooo glad that I had the opportunity to spend a month at home for Christmas 2007 & January 2008. The last time I saw my dad was a month before he died. I am also so glad that my sister just happened to be visiting my parents at the time.
I like to think that dad went out knowing that mum wouldn’t be alone.
“So I’ve got some news”
“Oh right, what’s that then?”
“I’ve prepaid my funeral”
“Oh, so it’s happening then?”
“Yes but I’ve turned down the State Funeral”
“Well that’s decent of you. Do we get tea and biscuits?”
“Well you get tea & coffee but you can bring your own damn biscuits!”
That was part of one of the last conversations I had with my dad.
I never knew what grief was until I lost my dad (the tears are coming now!).
I had lost people before. When we were 18, my best friend died. It was horrible but I was 18 and didn’t really understand what grief really was. Plus as much as Tara was a massive part of my life for a very short time, she wasn’t my parent.
Losing a parent is something that you can never be prepared for. Even if you think you’re prepared, you’re wrong.
My dad was my hero. He was my protector. He was my strength.. even when I didn’t know it, even when HE didn’t know it. To not have my dad around has been one of the toughest life lessons I’ve had to go through but I am so lucky to still have my mum – even after a very serious scare a few years ago.
But one thing I did learn through this whole process, and something I struggled with at the time.. is that life does go on.
I remember sitting on the bus one day not longer after dad had passed away. I suddenly remembered something about my dad and burst into tears. People around me must have thought I was a bit crazy. I wanted to stand up in the aisle and shout “MY DAD JUST DIED!!!!!” I didn’t want people to think I was weird, I wanted to give them the reason why I was crying
You can’t control when these things hit you – even now, after nearly 9 years, I will have a moment or two. Father’s Day is hard with all the advertising reminding you that you no longer have a dad around. Christmas has never been the same for me since dad passed away – my dad looked like Santa. And don’t even get me started on ANZAC Day with The Last Post being played everywhere – my dad had the brilliant foresight to have my six brothers carry his coffin out to the sounds of The Last Post being played. It was already an emotional piece anyway but I honestly cannot listen to it now without crying!
But I get up every morning. I go to work. I come home. I go get groceries. I go out with friends. I go to the movies. I travel. I laugh. I cry. I get mad.
I thought my life would stop after my dad died. I thought that I would not be able to go on. I thought that I would change so much and never be the same person I was. Well that last part is partially true.
But despite everything …