Monday, 2 January 2012

In memory

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart 
and bids it break.  
William Shakespeare

Today marks the second anniversary of the loss of my father. I have thought long and hard about whether to publish this post, as generally my writing on this blog is about the happy and positive events that make up my day to day life. However, I also aimed for it to be a place to record the inspirations that shape who I am and what I choose to do and be. So, in that context, I wanted to express the sorrow that still abounds with the loss of my father, but also gratitude for the love and support he provided me for so long. 

The photo above is of the Lion of the Lucerne - a beautiful monument to the Swiss Guards who were killed during the French Revolution. I first saw this monument in 1998 when I travelled through Europe for the first time and was so taken with the beautiful depiction of sorrow that it expressed. When I was able to accompany my parents back to Switzerland in 2007, my father was equally taken with it...and so, I thought it a fitting picture to accompany this post.

My father was of the hale and hearty type - so much so that his sudden diagnosis with glioblastoma multiforme (grade 4 brain tumour) in August 2009 came as such a shock as we all, especially him, came to terms with the reality of his imminent passing. Despite a course of radiotherapy, his final decline came only 4 months later. He was hospitalised in mid-December and placed under palliative care - and I flew home to be with my family - all 4 of us together, for what would be the last time. Although Dad was progressively losing his language he was able to express that he wanted to be taken home to die - something we were able to achieve on 23 December 2009.

Those 10 days between 23 December and the evening of 2 January when he eventually slipped away constitute the hardest days of my life. Although we had a daily visit from a community nurse, the practical care of my father fell to myself, my sister and mother. The reality of having to care for him - particularly in trying to keep him comfortable with morphine and managing the increasing incidence of his seizures can only be described as horrendous - his illness had reduced this strong, loving, protective man to a shell of his former self. Yet still, I look back and can also appreciate that having the privilege to care for my father during those days is one of the proudest moments of my life. This was my chance to bestow as much love, care and nurturing onto him as he had unfailingly offered me.

As the days passed slowly, I came to begin to pray for his release - it was just so agonising to witness his final struggle in life. But, when the time came to actually say goodbye, I have few words to describe the grief. Surrounded by my mother, my sister and I, he eventually passed away after one last dreadful seizure. He lay in the bed, turned slightly towards my mother, and she saw the glimmer of a smile on his face as he eventually slipped away.

After two years, there is still not a day that goes by that I do not think of my father and mourn his loss. Initially those memories were totally focused on the days immediately preceding his passing... but as time has gone by, they have started to become more balanced with other, happier though bittersweet, memories. 

My father was, and remains, one of the greatest sources of inspiration in my life. The actions I take today are still tempered by the thought of what would he think, what would his advice be, would he be proud of me...

His loss will remain with me always...these typically celebratory days of the Christmas/New Year period will always be tinged with grief; he won't be there to attend my PhD graduation in March; he will never walk me down the aisle; and if I should be fortunate enough to have children, they will never know the kind and loving grandfather that my niece and nephew experienced...but more than that, the enduring safety net that he provided purely by his presence is gone, and I feel that I have been cut free...

...he is greatly, and immeasurably missed....

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