Friday, 10 December 2010

The things I haven't told you.

A friend at school's Dad had cancer too, when he died she said 'you will know when he is dying, you will feel it'. But it came as a complete shock to me.

My Dad died on June 30th 2005, over 5 years ago. It was a Thursday.

I remember that he was in the hospital on the Monday. Possibly the Tuesday too. They then moved him to the hospice. I abused the visiting hours on Monday night at the hospital. I remember a nurse telling me I shouldn't stay, he is not going to die now. This may have helped to lead to my later confusion.
I stayed there all night, in the early hours of the morning I witnessed what someone with a lot of liquid morphine in their system is like.

I guess I now finally see that they must have known he was dying. They must have moved him to the hospice to fulfill his wishes of not dying in hospital.
I was 17. I didn't know what was going on. No one told me and my rational brain told me that a hospice is less serious than a hospital.. maybe he was getting better, surviving against all odds. I was kidding myself and I know it now.

My aunt told me that Wednesday night, she said 'I think the might die soon now' and I was thinking ...what, they say he's dying all the time. How does she know?

My Dad was becoming pretty incoherent. I didn't understand why. I was frustrated for him. He would try to tell me things but not able to speak properly. I didn't know it at the time but they had pumped a lot of drugs into him at that point. No one tells you anything when you are 17.

They asked if we wanted to have his last rights read. I said no, I was scared of how he might feel, lying there, unable to communicate correctly, seeing someone perform the last rights. It was my decision and i'll never know if i made the right one.

I stayed with him for a lot of the evening. I went to sleep on an armchair in a very 70s looking room next to his bedroom. At 3am I was woken, possibly by a cousin. I'm not sure.

That was when I had to go and say goodbye.
Part of me suspects he was already dead at that moment.
But I said goodbye. I love you.

The hospice asked if I wanted councilling. I said no. I would be fine. I think i had some councilling at college in the end but it's hard to remember because everything went downhill at college pretty soon after that.

At 9am Thursday morning I went in and quit my part time job.

The next couple of weeks I don't remember much.

I went to see the body. Lain out in a coffin in a semi darkened room. Theatrical. It was like a library. You couldn't speak. My mum went with me. I don't think my brother wanted to come. I didn't know if I wanted to go and I still don't know to this day whether it was good for me to go or not.

I was told by people that a person who dies with an illness like cancer looks better when they die, like when the stress leaves their face, the skin looks better. Or something. Whatever.

From what I saw people just don't look the same when they're dead. He looked like he did when alive, just way too still.

I didn't cry then.

The funeral was a strange one. He was cremated and then later the ashes were buried.
At the funeral they played Moth by Jethro Tull. Lots of people cried. I didn't cry. I got a picture of him and put it at the front.

Lots of people asked me if I wanted to say something at the funeral, they asked my brother too. I said no. What could i possibly come up with that would sum up his life?
I'm pretty sure some of my cousins spoke and the vicar talked about what a wonderful person he was, but i don't think it counts because you don't speak ill of the dead and i'm pretty sure they say that everyone is nice at their funeral.

The actual burial of the ashes was a while later i seem to remember. We had to wait for a vicar that my Dad had specified to get back from a trip to Africa.
He was a nice vicar.

My dad is buried at a little churchyard in a village where he grew up. The twelfth century church sits on the edge of a woods where he used to take us to walk. All i remember at the burial is that my granddad put the first dirt on the pot to fill in the hole. He is quite old and not very mobile and it made me sad to think of a child dying before a parent.

We scratched his name into the wall by his grave so we didn't forget where it was.

He didn't have a gravestone for a few years. I think he got one about 2 years ago. Me and my brother couldn't afford to get him one. In the end the family got together and bought him one. He had 3 brothers and 2 sisters.

I saw the grave for the first time this summer.

The churchyard where he is buried is a bit out of the way for someone who doesn't drive. I guess people offered to drive me a few times but I didn't want to be there with other people. I was afraid that at some point I would cry.

I don't know what I expected when I saw the grave stone? Some kind of epiphany? All of my questions about death to have been answered? In truth I just looked at it for a while whilst the people with me stood back and let me have space. Then I left. Maybe it would have been different to be there alone.

Nowadays I am used to him not being here. I hope though that one day i'll stop having dreams where there's a chance I can save him but am too late.


  1. Dear Laura,

    My deepest sympathies for the

    tragic loss of your dear father.

    Naturally, I had assumed with your

    tender age that both parents were

    still living. My heart was touched

    by your memoir, I know how hard

    it is to cope, because grieving

    becomes part of everyday existence,

    it never goes away, it's like an

    undercurrent you constantly

    struggle against. Your description

    of your father's corpse differs

    from the shock I felt of seeing my

    mother who died last November.

    It was a vague resemblance of the

    woman who bore me, it was more like

    a cruel stone effigy.

    It was very brave of you to post

    this, but I feel I understand you




  2. Brave Laura to post such a personal thing. I hope this and exploring the ideas around it in your work are helping you. Take care. xx