My dad is dying. His health and vitality has diminished rapidly in recent weeks. We all knew this time would come, but nothing can really prepare you for the final part of the journey.
Dad has been living with cancer for the past 10 years. He has had some fit and active years in this time and he has experienced the birth of new life in the form of 5 grandchildren. He has bravely fought liver cancer for over 4 years – it takes most people within 2. My mum’s strength and love has played a huge part in his longevity.
Me and dad really connected today. And although we didn’t speak many words, our physical touch and presence said everything we wanted to say. We both cried … and as dad pointed out to me, “there’s not much to smile about right now!”.
We are all confronting our own fears through this journey as well. I can’t even imagine what this is like for mum and I’m sure it’s different for my sister and again for my boys. I’ve been struck by my own feeling of mortality and vulnerability. I feel like every step and every breath is somehow different today. As I sit here writing in my parent’s house, I somehow feel like a stranger … a stranger to the schedule of medications, hospital visits and the rhythm of my parent’s routine. Then, in the same breath, I feel at home like the boy who once lived under their roof.
During one of our moments together today Dad said, “I don’t fear death son … it’s this pain and discomfort that’s getting to me!” Being with dad when he is suffering is all I can do. Today I read to him and at times he laughed. I nearly stopped reading when he appeared to be asleep, but he murmured, “Keep going”. I rubbed his aching back and his restless legs.
My dad will live on inside me after he is gone. He will surface in my dreams and in my conscious thoughts. I’ll be reminded of him when I least expect it. I’ll see him in my own reactions to events and his wisdom and teachings will continue to guide me.
Just lately, I’ve been writing about the vulnerability we feel – on stage, during an argument with a loved one, when watching our kids taking risks. Today, with dad, I learned a whole lot more about sitting with fear and paying attention to that which makes us vulnerable.