My dad is dying. And it’s as if I have only just realised it properly, with all the stages of grief – anger, denial, guilt – all coming at once. The grief, when it comes, is crippling, like a weight on my heart unable to rise and instead pressing down with intent. I’m sitting here writing it out, hoping it will be a cathartic process. I think I still held out hope that the chemotherapy would continue and stop the growth of the malignancies in his body, but at the same time I knew this wouldn’t be the case, and I was perhaps – not exactly in denial (I knew what would happen and could talk about it) but was unable to let myself think about the possibility for more than a few minutes since I was still teaching, and to think about it for longer would have meant an emotional collapse. We don’t know if he has a few days or a few weeks, but each day I see him, he is weaker, though still definitely and defiantly and wonderfully Dad.
He’s frustrated though. He can’t move his right arm from the shoulder, only clench his hand, and his legs have atrophied so they can barely – if at all – bear his weight. He says he wants visitors, then collapses in exhaustion after the fourth lot of people show up that day. He feels he is losing his dignity, and he’s angry, but to all of us he’s no less Maurice Moody than he was when he was climbing hills, running marathons, trekking to Everest Base Camp, fighting against apartheid in South Africa, being an amazingly compassionate friend to those less fortunate than him, talking to tramps on the road and encouraging all of us to live our lives to the fullest.
He and my mother have taught me to be me, unique, and help others without losing myself. Dad is pretty much still the biggest inspiration in my life, especially in my teaching; I see his influence on my classroom practice every day I am in school.
Right now I feel as though I want to go out, get really drunk with a bunch of very fun people, dance and ignore what is happening. Maybe I will, but it won’t make it go away. Anyone fancy a Leeds club night this weekend ?!
We’re all coming to terms with losing a father, a husband, a brother and a son, and it is so hard for all of us but we’re closer because of it. I at least want to take my mum away on holiday, maybe with my brother too, rest with them and have some space, and then help us all to have an amazing life in the future with dad as a wonderful memory.
Friends, please bear with me. I might go off the rails a bit and party like it’s 1999, but it’s only to find a pocket of fun in amongst the seriousness of the grief. Dad likes celebrations and I feel as though every time I visit him I feel the grief more than the fun: I just don’t know what to say. What do you say to your amazing father, who isn’t going to be here very long at all now, to make him smile and feel happy and forget his anger and frustration at not being independent any more? If anyone knows how I can do that, and not have a blank head filled with the weight of tears each time I visit him, please let me know.