My dear Dad passed away at the end of last month, thankfully peacefully at home where he wanted to be. The paradox of my tears over these past weeks have been a reflection of the deep love I was fortunate to have for him coupled with the grief of loss of his physical presence in my life. He was a Dad who made many sacrifices in taking care of my brother and me throughout his life.
During my reflections I realise that my grief for losing him began many months before he died. The last four months were tough for him, and in turn for me, witnessing his deteriorating health accompanied by the frustration that bought. And yet he navigated his condition with as much strength and will as he could muster until the end.
During these months where I was able to spend more time with him caring for him at home with the help of friends, family and carers, we spent time in conversation, playing cards, draughts or rummykub as a way to distract his mind from pain and discomfort and simply enjoy this time together.
These times were precious moments. I listened, he spoke. I listened, he became quiet. I listened, he drifted off for a nap. I was still there, still listening when he awoke a little while later. He shared stories of when he was younger. He recalled experiences of his school days, in the RAF and his working life where he served others in the hospitality, laundry, clothing, catering and food trades. We also spoke of current times, our girls and their university life and holidays, my husband and my work contributions. He was interested in and cared greatly for his family.
As the weeks progressed I realised each time we were together it was harder for him to be in conversation for long. He became weaker. I began grieving then as he became a different version of the Dad I knew. I found it harder each time I walked through his door as I didn’t know what to expect. And yet I wanted to be upbeat for him and so fought back the tears of witnessing him become a shadow of his former self mentally and physically. I sat with him, listening to what he needed now, what needed to change and what he wanted as his condition deteriorated.
Over these months I was reminded of the goodness Dad generated in the lives of others. He worked until he was 80 years old in the food trade! He worked in his community with the local school and tennis club jointly for over 40 years. He helped those who sought help. He took time out to visit those who wanted company. He never arrived anywhere without a gift for the person he was visiting. He enjoyed being with people. Dad’s life was a life well lived, one to be grateful for and celebrated.
I am hugely grateful to my family, friends and colleagues who have been such a dependable source of comfort, strength and love throughout this time – you know who you are. Whilst I was listening to Dad, you have been there listening to me and for that I am hugely grateful.
And today, in writing to you, sharing my experience of listening in grief, I am reminded of this gift that we all have. I have been enriched in listening to others share with me their experiences navigating times of loss. I have been reminded of how lucky I was to have been on this earth together with Dad for the past 56 years. I am grateful to have had some time to reflect and listen to my own positive memories, my feelings as they surge and burst out unexpectedly at times and listen to the gratitude in my heart for all that Dad was for me and others. His legacy of generosity, kindness and independence is one that will remain in our hearts forever.
Thank you for listening!