On July 9th, I lost my Dad to cancer. He had fought prostate cancer for 10 years, but it finally overcame him this past year, moving to his bones and then bladder. I was fortunate to have been with him the moment he passed, as I live about 1,500 kms away from him. One of the most difficult parts of moving away was knowing I would be so far from my Dad. We had a unique relationship that was quiet but ran deep.
When I knew my dad was not well, I went to see him at the end of April. I made peace with the fact, I most likely would not see him again, living. A series of events happened that caused him to be going in and out of hospital, but the last visit to the hospital, his stay was much longer. It appeared he would not be returning home and we needed to find a care facility for him. We went from ‘the wheels haven’t fallen off the bus yet” to a retirement home won’t be able to meet his medical needs in about 3 weeks.
With Troy on summer vacation, the first week I spent with him and the following week while he was at day camp, I planned to see my dad. These decisions are never easy ones, as the guilt of what Brian’s responsibilities become without me at home is really difficult. I would fly out late Tuesday evening and return home on the Saturday night.
On Wednesday morning, Daphne (his long-time dearest friend or in my opinion, his girlfriend) and I arrived to find Dad extremely upset. It appears him and the doctor had words and the words were rather harsh. As suspected, Dad truly had no idea his life was ending due to the cancer and all the reasons he was ailing was due to the cancer. It was his breaking point and finally the very next day, he said ‘guess it’s time to talk about the service’. Up until that moment, there was NO discussing the subject matter.
On the Wednesday, though tired, we spent the day talking about this, that and everything in between. On Thursday, I heard him telling jokes and laughing while going down memory lane with his good friend who he once worked with and then with my aunt and cousin. One of the sweetest sounds that day was dad laughing, so far removed from the day before’s tears. On the Friday, it seemed Dad had overdone himself the day before and for the most part he slept and said little.
Saturday was worse. I was to leave that evening, but I knew even if I got myself to the airport, my feet would never get on Westjet’s plane home. So I stayed, knowing the burden my wonderful partner was dealing with: running a household, getting Troy to camp, preparing lunches, walking dogs, making dinner, showering Troy, etc. The only help, our other two sons.
I will be forever grateful to my inner voice for I heard it say ‘stay’. Two incredible events took place. The first: he really hadn’t said much Friday or Saturday, just a few words and mumbles here and there. At a moment when Daphne had left the hospital room, he clearly said to me “I am so worried about Daphne”. I told him, ‘it’s okay Dad, I will love her and take care of her”. “Dad, can I ask you a favour” and without waiting for a reply, “Dad I promise you with my word, I will look after Daphne, but can you do me a favour and watch over Troy for me”. A tear fell from his right eye and he nodded his head very gently. That was the last true interaction I had with him.
On the Monday when the doctor saw him again, we had less than 48 hours. While my sister, Daphne and I were all doing crossword puzzles in his hospital room, I all of a sudden put the book down. Dad looked slightly different from an hour ago. I got up and leaned over his left side, whispering to him “I am right here dad and I love you very much. Daphne is here and so is Cathie and we all love you very much”. I gestured to Daphne and told her to come closer and at that time my sister asked if he was breathing, to which he was. They moved into his right side. I once again leaned closer to my dad’s ear and told him to fly with the angels. And miraculously, he actually took his last breath and he did.
I have been mostly at peace with dad’s death, yet as each day passes my heart and mind are troubled.
Who will be with Troy when it becomes his time? The reality is there won’t be a wife, nor children, highly unlikely it will be myself, his stepfather or father. He has two step-brothers, but the one he has a huge connection with now lives in Australia and the other one, well there isn’t too much interaction between them. He has his blood brother, but in my heart, his brother will have his own life by then.
Who will make the time to tell Troy to fly with the angels?