My sister, Jane, has reminded me twice this week that today is 4 years since my Dad’s death. The first time I quickly forgot. Maybe that was the chaos of term 2, exam & assignment marking, report writing, plus fighting off the inevitable end of term virus. Or maybe I didn’t want to remember.
Today, though, I had just finished my reports when Jane reminded me again, and then in one of those quirky twists of fate that suggests that my music player has a hidden agenda, my shuffled music started playing a Tina Arena song that we listened to the day Dad died. We were on the way to pick up Mum, it was a long drive, and these songs are burned into my brain.
I found myself singing along, and then playing it over and over again. Of course, singing with a virus is a risky affair, and I should probably apologise to my family and the neighbours for the raucous squeakings that issued from my throat, but I couldn’t help myself. The song was bubbling up from my heart, and it had to come out.
Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you
Where are you going to? Do you know?
Do you get what you’re hoping for
When you look behind you, there’s no open door
What are you hoping for? Do you know?
The day my Dad died was pretty tough. We had been expecting it for years, but its arrival was nonetheless a deeply shocking blow. I had been flinching at every unexpected phone call for some time, but the call when it actually came knocked me flat.
God knows we had a complicated relationship, my Dad and I, and the last few years of his life took a relationship with cracks and turned those hairline fractures into ravines that neither of us could ever quite cross. It has taken me four years to start to see past the anger and devastation of that time through to the love and laughter that we used to share.
I hoped for his death. Longed for it. Not because I was angry, but because he was in so much pain. Insisting daily that he was fit as a fiddle and expecting to live forever, any fool could see he was dying by degrees. His cancer was consuming him, and deny it though he did, in the end it was undeniable. His death, when it came, was mercifully sudden – a heart attack in the street. The long, traumatic downward slide halted a long way from the horror that we saw in our nightmares. He was spared that, and so were we.
Now looking back at all we’ve planned
We let so many dreams just slip through our hands
Why must we wait so long before we see
How sad the answers to those questions can be?
Do you know where you’re going to? Masser & Goffin
I’ll never forget that day, or the days that followed. But looking back what I find woven around every step, every phone call, every heartbeat, is the support of the people around me. I remember rushing to the only private place in my workplace – out the back with the admin staff – and receiving hugs, cups of tea, and time to breathe. I remember the dear friend who drove me home, and the hugs I received by text on the way.
I remember the messages on Facebook before the news became public, and the cards from my work friends offering food, hugs, and anything I needed. I remember the casserole on the doorstep, and the purple frilly scarf. I remember cards, flowers, and pots of orchids that still bloom from time to time in my living room.
I remember emails, phone calls, and endless hugs. I remember my car breaking down on the day of the funeral, and the kind soul who gave me a lift to work. I remember everyone who came to the funeral. Above all, I remember knowing that whichever way I turned, whenever I faltered, someone was there to catch me, hold me, and help me up.
I miss my Dad. But I remember the love.