I feel lucky I had 28 great years with a father who was kind and generous and treated me like I was the most important person in his world. I am grateful I was there when he died so peacefully, listening to his favourite song with both my mother and myself in the room. He just stopped breathing and faded away in what was, I hope for him, a painless death after so many months of unbearable pain. I am grateful I got to say goodbye and that we were able to say all the things you say when someone you love is leaving you. I am grateful for the moments we spent one on one during that desperate four months while we still had hope he would be ok. For someone who isn't too sure if they believe in a higher power, the serendipity of that day will forever haunt me. I was having coffee with a friend across the street from the hospital where my dad was staying, planning to visit him afterward, when I got a call from my mother saying I should come to the hospital right away, and that she was already there. His vital signs were fading, but he was still conscious when I came in, with a big smile on his face when he saw me. He passed away an hour or so later.
Some days I feel completely fine. Others I can barely get out of bed. Without fail, every night I fall asleep to images of some period from my dad's final months. Most I cry myself to sleep. I am lucky in the sense that I naturally seem to be able to compartmentalize my grief. Alone I feel it strongly. With others, at work, at school, it's like I naturally put it away and interact as though nothing as happened. With others I am fine - truly fine, not pretending. It's strange. I am glad for this coping mechanism. However when alone the grief will strike me out of nowhere. In the grocery store, hearing certain songs, walking down the street. Mostly recently Neil Young's Helpless hit me hard. My dad grew up in Northern Ontario before moving to Hamilton, and is from the same county Neil Young grew up in. Those lyrics took the wind out of me right in the middle of a Shoppers Drugmart.
I have so much respect for my mother who has carried the show despite losing her husband and best friend of forty years. I always knew she was a strong lady, but how she's coped with his death, with her own grief, with dealing with all the paperwork post mortem, supporting me, deserves a damn medal.
I also have so much respect for those who work for Alberta Healthcare. This experience made me realize the pitfalls as well as the great things about public healthcare in Canada. It's definitely not a perfect system, but I cannot imagine what it would be like to be dealing with the stress, sadness and worry of someone dying, on top of worry about the massive cost of a private healthcare bill. The total cost we had to pay for my dad's radiation, medicine and hospital stay was $22 - the cost of a private phone in his hospital room. His death was not due to a failure on the part of the system. He never had any waits for specialists and his doctors were extremely competent and caring. I will always support public healthcare in Canada, and I sure am bloody grateful for it. He had cancer for many years before it spread. He had check ups every month and took hormones which kept his prostate at bay for almost five years. Sadly cancer is cancer, and it literally spread from on month to the next. Just like people can become immune to drugs like antibiotics, cancer can also become immune to medicine. Sadly it's quite rare in the case of prostate cancer and the hormone my dad was on, but one cannot control these things. His cancer was considered practically level 0 for so long, and shot up to stage 4 in a matter of weeks. What can you do? Cancer is elusive and tricky. I just really sucks it happened to be him to defy very rare odds.
As time goes on, it becomes both easier and harder to deal with. I am very sad he will not be in my life for The Big Things. But I am lucky I got the time with him I did, that we had a good relationship, spent time together, that he was a good man, a good example, and always good to me. I am trying my best to celebrate what I had, rather than be angry about what I lost. Even though it really sucks we said goodbye too soon.
This is one of the last photos I took of my dad before he got sick. I called this one "my boys." My dad loved our cat Gus so much, it was pretty damn cute.
That's about all I can muster for today. Glad I finally shared, even though no one reads blogs anymore. It felt good to write.