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Some more thoughts on the week that was and the passing of my dad

I feel the need to write about the events from Tuesday morning through to Thursday evening as painful as they may be.

On Tuesday morning I was sitting here working and surfing the web when I came across a story in the Huffington Post. I have no idea why I read it but there was a photo with the story of an aircraft carrier coming into Portsmouth Harbour and in the bottom left of the shot you could clearly see the Still and West pub. This pub is right next to where the Isle of Wight car ferry docks and I clearly remember thinking to myself how long it had been since I had been on that ferry. Little did I know that within six hours or so I would be doing just that.

At just gone 11 on Tuesday morning my mobile went and the name ‘Dad Mobile’ flashed up. Very very strange I thought as he never rings my mobile and always uses the landline. A female voice was on the other end – one of my dads stepchildren with the words after she had introduced herself of ‘I don’t want you to panic but…’ and before those words had fallen from her lips I knew just how serious it must be for someone to be contacting me in such a manner.

My dad had had what was already deemed as a ‘major stroke’ and had been rushed to the hospital. I couldn’t get hold of any of my family at that time. Nobody was answering their phones. Around an hour or so later people started picking up their messages and within two hours we all knew. By this time I had spoken to the doctor treating my dad and when the words which I can still hear in my head – ‘how soon can you get here?’ dropped the bomb in my head exploded.

Initially I wasn’t going to rush down because I didn’t think I could get there in time but within half an hour I knew that had I not tried and I would have gotten there in time to say my goodbyes then I would forever kick myself. I grabbed a change of clothes and my phone chargers and jumped on the next train. As I got on the train my sister called and we worked out what the plan of action was to be. There were a few people on my carriage who would have overheard my half of the conversation and must have wondered what was going on. Then I got a called from one of the stepchildren again to tell me the latest and told me that there would be no animosity if my mum was there too. Straight away I called her to tell her this and she jumped on a train too.

My brother was an hour or so ahead of us so we knew he’d get there first. I remember sitting there on the train in this surreal world of racing against time to say goodbye to my dad as the world moved on around me. I can’t describe the feeling. I knew even if I had the perfect run I wouldn’t get there for five hours and I was just sitting there willing the train to speed up. As luck would have it I made amazing time through London and put us in with an outside chance of getting the five o’clock ferry instead of the six.

My sister picked me up at Havant and we went to pick up her husband en route to the ferry. He hadn’t picked up his voicemail messages and rang her to say he was going to do some overtime but we didn’t answer the phone. I rang him back immediately and when he heard my voice he knew something was wrong. I told him we were en route to pick him up and to make sure he was out dead on time as we were rushing to get the ferry. When we got there he rushed out of the door within 30 seconds and we got down to the car ferry port just in time and got on the boat.

The journey was so quick compared to how I remembered it. We got on to the Island and got to the hospital and found the Intensive Care Unit pretty quick sharp and got in there and my brother and my dads wife were there. We got the low down and my sister and myself went in to see him. He was on a life support machine and wasn’t in very good shape at all. My sister stepped down and I started saying my goodbyes. I don’t lie when I say I was in pieces. Absolute pieces. A staff nurse came in to see if I was ok which I clearly wasn’t but I needed to say my piece and that I did.

I walked out of ICU knowing that may very well be the last time I ever see my dad. I sat in the relatives room and just sat there in silence. I had totally zoned out. People were talking but I wasn’t listening. I was away with my own thoughts. My own feelings of guilt. My own feelings of hope. My own feelings of regret. The emotions that I suppose go through everyone in that situation. I remember my mum asking me what I wanted to do and the response inside of head and that which fell from my lips were two very different ones.

Inside I was screaming that all I wanted to do was go back 25 years or so to when I was a toddler or a small child and be playing with my dad on Wecock Farm Park. I know how much my dad enjoyed those times and I would have pretty much done anything to return to that moment in time at that current juncture. I think I just shrugged and said that I didn’t know. The doctors told us that they were going to attempt to bring him out of sedation but it wasn’t successful and they ere not going to try again until the next day.

There was nothing I or anyone could do there so we decided to go back to the mainland. I went in again – this time with my brother-in-law and this time I was far more composed. Deep down I knew he wasn’t going to recover. I knew that and this was it. As I wrote the other night I hope he heard what we all said but sadly I’ll never know. We got back to my sisters just outside of Portsmouth and I didn’t sleep very well at all. Maybe two and a half hours tops.

Then I made my way back here to Southend. I recall at West Ham station this Canadian couple were lost and weren’t sure how to get to Leytonstone. I heard someone telling them the wrong way so I stepped in and got them to where they needed to be as I waited for my train home. I cried on the train. I cried a lot. Not very loudly but tears rolled down my cheeks freely as I thought about everything. I still did my Hospital Radio Show in the evening as I needed to keep my mind off of things which really did help. My sister rang me just as I got there and said they had brought my dad out of sedation but the pupils and responses were extremely worrying. By the morning he would be back under after a coughing fit.

As some of you may know I’m running for the local council here and nomination forms have to be in by Tuesday at the latest. I told my agent of the situation and we needed to get all the paperwork signed off so I said lets get it done as quickly as possible as I had no idea how the next few days would shake out. He came over on Thursday afternoon and I got all my obligations done. Not a minute before he buzzed on the intercom though my mum had rung me to say that life support would be withdrawn that afternoon. It must have been extremely awkward for my agent as I was breaking up inside but had to keep it together for a few minutes whilst we got all this sorted.

I chose not to go down to watch him die. The staff at St. Marys ICU on the Isle of Wight – which I must say were absolutely brilliant – said that they wouldn’t switch him off until those that wanted to get there had gotten there but I felt no need to watch him take his final breaths. I sat here on Thursday afternoon and evening keeping my mind off things and caught up on so much television it was stupid. Anything to keep my mind off what was going on. I then started to write my previous blog and then the call came from my brother-in-law saying ‘I’m just calling you to tell you the news’ and that was pretty much it.

After we hung up I bawled my little eyes out. Not quietly this time but loudly. Oh so very loudly. I was sat where I’m sitting right now in front of my PC all alone knowing my dad had gone. Just a horrific experience. I pulled myself together and went to bed but everyone would ring within the next hour or so. I would sleep reasonably well but Friday was a hard day. I knew there were people I could turn to but in a strange way I wanted to be alone.

Saturday my mum came over and I had company in the evening which kept my mind off things and then today the first semi normalish day since Tuesday I suppose. I’m doing the laundry. I went to Asda to get some food as I haven’t had any food in the house since Tuesday and I’ve lived off of takeaway food. For those who have known me a long time you’ll know of the tale of the older nurse that I fancied for many years and I haven’t seen her in months but I saw her in Asda. I decided that it wasn’t the best time to go and say hello and some sense of normality has resumed.

On Wednesday there is the funeral and that is something that I don’t think it is a stretch to say I’m not exactly looking forward to. I don’t think that will give me closure in any sense or form but afterwards I suppose I can start the healing process. Life will never be the same again. My dad is meant to be happily enjoying his retirement and pottering around in the garden and cursing at everything and everyone. Sadly that isn’t what has happened but I take great comfort in knowing that he didn’t fear death in the slightest as he believed he had someone extremely special waiting for him when he passed on.

Personally I’ll heal and in time life will return to normal. No doubt there will be those moments where the pain returns but I hope in time the pain is replaced in the main with the memories. They say that there is no greater pain than when a parent outlives their offspring and sadly for my parents they have felt this pain. In a way I’m happy that my dad hasn’t had to face it again but I just didn’t think his time was up just yet. I wasn’t ready for it but I suppose few people ever are.

This is the first time I have been old enough/close enough to someone to really be hit hard by something like this. I won’t say I’m finding it easy but I will say that I know that my dad would not want his passing to in any way disrupt my life and stop me fulfilling whatever it is that I want to achieve in life and after the next few days I’ll start trying to get back to normal and get on with my life – that is the final thing that I can give him.

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  1. Andrew Currie Andrew Currie

    I’m twice your age Neil, a generation older & was only 17 when my dad died within about a week of a heart attack. I never knew him as a friend, only as a parent. Life was simpler in the 1970’s – there wasn’t the shared activity and interests that good families have today; little time spent together, no ferrying to school & to friends and the like as is common these days – he went to work & I went to school so I just remember watching a few classic BBC comedies with him in the evenings & going on holiday.
    Strange thing is, I can’t remember even visiting him in the week he was in hospital. My mother for some reason felt it wasn’t appropriate; my older sister has never forgiven her for keeping us away – perhaps she just thought he would get better; nowadays no doubt he would have lived. I feel guilty now that his passing did not cause me more upset. I don’t know if I even cried. Yet a few years later when a work colleague committed suicide, I was more upset & that just doesn’t seem right. I’m the one of three children who lives near my mother and feel burdened by my responsibilities, particularly as my own circumstances are difficult. I’m scared about how I’ll handle her death. I might go to pieces because she’s been there for me over the last 12 years of my health & financial problems as I have for her for 40 years. I may not be much affected & then feel guilty if that’s the case.

    My mother had been nagging my dad for years to become a ‘proper’ Christian rather than just a churchgoer and I guess he went through the motions of confirmation etc. for a quiet life. I have never spoken to my mother about this; if she wants to believe in an afterlife and that my dad became a Christian I’m not going to challenge that belief and upset her. My mother has always preferred to believe what makes her happiest and avoids debate or discussion that may make her uncertain. Sadly, she still refers to her 28 year marriage as perfect but her children know more than she does. Again, why upset her with the truth?
    Almost every funeral I’ve been to has been attended out of courtesy towards relatives. I get moderately annoyed at being a captive audience for a vicars evangelising which I think is inappropriate for a funeral (one of the few occasions non-churchgoers attend church).

    It’s the living we need to be there for, so remember the importance of the hospital radio. For most people, death is bad news whatever beliefs a person holds but the last bit of life can be good for many.

  2. A very nice piece, very honest. I feel for you. I am sure your dad heard the words you spoke to him. Take care of yourself.

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