The 16th of June marks two months since dad passed. Today as I was on the road for work driving through the drizzling winter weather here in Sydney I was reminded of what I was doing at this time of the afternoon on the day I lost dad.
I was driving along the highway headed back to Sydney from Wyong and I was in a terrible state. When I reflect upon it now I really don't think I should not have been driving, but I was desperate to get home and cling onto any kind of sanity I could find. I needed to clutch onto something familiar and warm, anything that would even slightly ease the intense pain and insanity I was feeling. I felt out of my mind. I couldn't stay there at Summerland Point (as lovely as it sounds) with my dad's partner who I never really tried to know in the house that I had never visited until dad lay in a nearby hospital dying. The house I had been welcomed to visit many times but never did. The place that dad loved and wanted me to see but I didn't until that horrible week.
My youngest brother had set off to see dad on the previous Sunday. When he got back he appeared very grim and told me that dad didn't look good. That's when I realised the urgency. The following day I went to work and put in for time off. I'd leave Wednesday morning and would spend the remainder of the week with dad. I felt nervous about waiting out the next two days, but couldn't really afford to take the time off. Dad had been given 3-12 months to live, and so he estimated that he'd have about 6 months. I realised that it may be far less now, but was certain I'd get to spend some quality time with him and help to organise whatever assistance he needed. His partner was also very tied up with work and didn't really know what to do.
On the Tuesday morning (24hrs before I was to leave) I had a very bad feeling. As I left the office and set about my day's work I noticed a black hearse driving behind me. This can't be a good sign, I thought. I pulled over and called dad's phone. It was turned off and went to voicemail. There was his voice, just what I wanted to hear, but then I heard the bip to leave a message and hung up the phone in a panic.
I called dad's partner's phone and she explained that they were at Wyong Hospital. She sounded very drowsy, so tired. Then those crushing words came fumbling through the phone "If you want to see him, you'd better come now."
I hung up and quickly called the hospital in a desperate search for dad's doctor to find out the reality of the situation. I found her. Again the suggestion was just the same. You'd better come now. I thanked her, but then begged for her to keep him there until I could see him. "Please tell him I'm on my way, just stay til' I get there..." The Doctor assured me that she'd pass on my message.
My boss was so understanding. I lost it in my car and broke down. I called who I thought I should call and did what I had to do, then took off to Wyong - over a two hour drive. I cried most of the way, begging dad, talking to dad, bargaining with dad, pleading with dad just to stay until I got there. On the highway I felt the freedom to scream and cry out loud! I was hysterical, but I needed to get a grip so that I could continue driving. I have never felt so frantic in my entire life.
When I arrived at the hospital I was expecting dad to be unconscious. He looked awful. Not human. But he greeted me with one of his usual terms of endearment in his usual voice - struggling though, of course. He was so sick.
For the next day or so I spent as much time with him as I could at the hospital as he zoned in and out. I watched him ride it out to his death in pain. After the first day his partner suggested I go back to the house and sleep. The next day, she said I could come back and she would leave for some rest. We needed to take turns.
Driving to the house I'd never been to in the dark that night was more than frightening. I drove along black winding roads with locals driving close behind wanting me to speed up. Then I arrived and dad's dog Jack went beserk and didn't let up all night. I was a stranger in their home. The real horror was in entering his house and seeing all of his things knowing that he will never return. I stayed there that night on my own, mortified. Everywhere I turned the horror of guilt struck my heart with a brutal blow. I tried to cook some dinner for myself, but was so sad thinking about how I could have been cooking for him too. Imagining happy scenarios in that home that could have been but never would be tore me apart.
I'm going to continue writing to tell my tale. As I mentioned in the first part of this story I want to write about this journey not only for me, but for others who are suffering with loss. The people who have helped me the most throughout all this are those who have suffered too. I've realised the importance in sharing my story both for myself and for someone else who needs to feel connected and not alone in their pain.