Friday, 30 January 2015

Here and now

During the past few weeks I have tried to ease my sadness through writing but have failed.  And then I sat down tonight and this piece practically wrote itself.  I apologise in advance for any self indulgence.
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It is three months since my Dad died; from a heart attack that saw him living his life one minute and laid dead on the floor the next.

Shocking doesn’t even cover it.  Maybe we should have been more prepared for his eventual fate.  He had lived the last twenty three years, of his seventy eight years of life, with heart disease and a number of other health concerns that had niggled away at him without stealing his pleasure of living.  But we were not prepared.  He was here.  And now he is gone. 

I have no siblings.  I was my Dad’s only child.  His proud to be ‘Daddy’s girl’ who loved him.  Adored him.  Who aches from missing him.  I saw my Dad for the last time on the day of my forty third birthday.  He and my Mum looked after my youngest son whilst me, my Husband, my eldest son and two dear friends  went out to a fancy firework display.  Before we went out, there were birthday presents. And singing.  And laughter.  When we came home, my parents were keen to get home, mainly to avoid ‘being in the way’.  I kissed my Dad goodbye and hugged him.  I unwittingly said ‘thank you for everything”.

Two days later my Dad was dead.  The last time I saw his body, it was laid on an undertakers trolley in the front room of the house he had shared with my Mum for the past sixty years.  The house I was born in.  He was dead when I arrived at the house.  He was already gone, but nonetheless, I spoke to his empty body in the way that those who go on living tend to do.  I said “goodbye old man” – which was odd really as I had never called him ‘old man’ ever before.  I reminded him that I loved him and always had.  I thanked him for all that he had done for me and my sons.  I stroked the head of hair he had been proud to still have at his age.  I held his hand in a way that would have made us both a little uncomfortable when he was alive.  I was grateful for the patience of the undertakers who gave me all the time I needed.  I barely acknowledged the presence of the neighbour who stopped by.  I was aware of my Mum and my three year old son being in the kitchen with my Husband; giving me and my Dad’s body some space.   I realised my Dad was no longer there but I did what I felt I needed to do.

In the immediate weeks that followed, I was overwhelmed by the support of close friends and family.   And surprised by those who didn’t know what to say and so didn’t say anything at all.  There were moments of surrealism whilst making funeral arrangements.  I was beyond grateful for the support of the many who attended the funeral and the outpouring of admiration for my Dad and love and support for my Mum.  I felt exhausted by the relentless onslaught of ever-changing emotions.   I was amazed that the world continued to turn and that life went on, seemingly unaffected, around me. 

In the weeks since, I have continued to take my children to school and nursery. I have attended visits to potential new schools and have submitted school application forms.  I have cooked meals. I have washed clothes. I have made polite conversation with strangers.  I have been difficult to live with. I have been angry. I have been frustrated.  I have been anxious.   I have been upset.  My three year old asks me when I cry if I am happy.  Or am I “sad about Grandad”?   I sometimes question if I am depressed. There have been weeks of drinking wine every night and forgetting that it’s important to eat and sleep regularly.

I find myself once again pondering the true meaning of life in a way that I haven’t since the self-contemplating years of my youth.   I appreciate the preciousness of life itself in a new and more profound way.  I want to live a more meaningful and authentic life.  I want to seize the day!  Live in the moment!  Practise mindfulness!  Be thankful!  I want to make a difference. 

But I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of everyone I know dying. I feel my heart beating too vigorously when I lay awake in bed at night.  I have begun to eat more healthily.  I take more exercise.  I am trying – relatively unsuccessfully - to meditate.  I am seeking help from a homoeopath.  I despair that regardless of all this I feel more run-down than ever.  I am tired. I have no energy and little motivation.  I catch every virus going.  I am lonely. I am sad.  I am lost.  I am broken.

I worry about my Mum. I try to be a good daughter to the woman who is alone and who I have a natural tendency to clash with but whom I love dearly; the woman who is barely able to parent me and grandparent her grandsons due to her deep rooted sadness and distraction.  I am worried about the effect on my eleven year old son.  I am so sad that my three year old won’t remember the Grandad who doted on him and his brother.

We dragged ourselves through Christmas, the New Year, the coldest, darkest months of winter.  Occasionally we have played in the snow and pretended it’s not happening.

Never before have I felt more isolated.  I am adrift.  I question if I am overreacting.  I try to reach out in a way that I couldn’t initially.  I wonder why people avoid asking me how I am. I am ready to talk now; to be more open about the horror of it all.  But people don’t seem to know what to say to me when I attempt to be honest with them about how I am feeling and so they most often resort to avoidance.  I try to understand why people find it difficult.  And yet I observe myself expecting too much from everyone I know.  I worry that friendships will diminish, relationships will suffer.  I have a new found respect for anyone who continues to live positively after suffering the loss of someone close.

I continue to post positive images of family life on Facebook and Instagram.  I book holidays and look to the future.  I am eternally grateful to the small handful of people who ‘get it’ and who are open and honest and consistently there for me in a way that is helping me to get through this time.  I need more of this.  I question my future but increasingly I appreciate the here and now. 

Every day when I wake up I remember that my Dad is dead.  And above all else, I am thankful that he was my Dad.

Thank you for reading.