I've been contemplating if the last few months have been the hardest of my life. They haven’t, but they come pretty fucking close. You of all people would know what a poignant statement that is.
I’m not sure what the point of writing this is. I’m not sure why I feel inclined to put pen to paper or fingers to keys, but I do know that since you died, the need to write has been an overwhelming one. A craving. A need. A pull in my stomach so deep, I’ve felt sick.
So, I plan to write with no goal in sight, to see if it helps. I think I will know what I want to say once I’ve said it.
I’ve begun many pieces; they all start the same: You died today.
Even after the day passed, I started writing them like that, as though I was stuck in an all-encompassing loop of grief with the inability to move on. I feel a bit better now but it’s a slow process. Every so often, I’m thrown back to the last time I saw you, and everything crumbles.
I was blind-sighted yesterday. After all the grief, all the sorrow, the heart-wrenching reality of never seeing you again, I forgot. Can you believe it? Because I can’t.
I was bored. I know how that sounds, but cabin fever had taken hold of me, and being cooped up in this beautiful house you helped us get seemed stale and all too repetitive. Ever since you died, I've needed to keep busy, or else my world will fall apart. Safe to say, I'm getting very little sleep unless I'm on the brink of exhaustion, and even then, nightmares take centre stage. I'm one giant, drained, ball of anxiety.
So, anyway, I was standing in my lounge, thinking about how relieved I was that we'd decided against buying a clock… I think listening to it tick would have pushed me over the edge. I was desperately seeking something to distract me when my phone rang. It was James. He was calling to tell me he was on the train, on his way home.
I thought about how nice it sounded to be out and about, in the world. I looked down at that sweet little girl of mine, in the crib you gifted us, with her big, blue, unburdened eyes looking up at me with curiosity, and decided we needed a change of scenery. Some fresh air. We would go and meet James on the train.
We would come to see you...
A knife in my windpipe.
How did I forget? After all the heartache, all the guilt, how did I forget?
I keep trying to forgive myself. It’s been a hard Christmas, and as I said, I haven’t exactly been sleeping. It’s bound to happen, right?
Still, I can’t shake the feeling I let you down.
The others have a reason; they didn’t speak to you much. You didn’t have a prominent place in their lives. But after the last two years of paying your bills, making sure you were fed and managing your care, I have no such excuse.
Your phone died pretty quickly. I haven’t had the heart to charge it. I keep thinking of people trying to reach you, people I couldn't find at the end, people who still don’t know.
But in the final stretch, it was all doctors and nurses, and it was breaking my heart to have to keep informing people of your passing. Especially, the medical professionals. They should have known better; they should have done more. If they had, maybe we wouldn’t be here...yet.
Not that you helped yourself, as you well know. You were stubborn to the end. But they could have done better. Perhaps, if they had, you would have had more hope, more fight. If your medical care hadn't been so piss-poor, maybe you wouldn't have given up.
I don't think I'll ever forget the day everything changed…finding out you'd thrown the towel in.
In particular, the moment my phone rang as twenty-odd children ran amok through my house, screaming and cheering amongst balloons and birthday presents. The nurse's voice seemed to echo down the line as she told me how quickly you were deteriorating, how your bad turn was taking an even worse one. It was like someone was suddenly sitting on my chest.
We’d known it was bad timing to have a party, but what choice did we have? Your grandson would only turn six once. We'd been planning it for months, thick as thieves, with clipboards and sticky notes. Invitations had been sent. Food had been ordered. More importantly, there was the sweetest little boy, who didn’t really ask for anything, even at Christmas, waiting for his guests to arrive.
Even so, if you hadn’t been so insistent that you understood... that it would be okay, that it was only for a few hours, that you would be fine... I probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it.
Yet, there we were with a party in full swing, house full, and a member of my son’s PTA standing next to me, getting the dreaded phone call. I tried to keep it together as I looked for somewhere to go that wasn’t currently occupied with the thunderous footsteps of overly excited children, whom I’d pounded full of sugar.
Opting for outside, I stood in the cold, amongst balloons and the debris of last year’s foliage. Apparently, my attempt at covert hadn’t fooled anyone and your youngest quickly joined me. Putting the phone on loudspeaker, we shivered and listened as the nurse informed us that you’d tested positive for Covid.
Concern turned to distress. We knew full well that you were too weak to fight it without the nurse repeatedly hammering it home. I guess making sure the family understand the gravity of the situation is part of their job.
We stood in silence for a moment. Me, watching as my little sister's eyes glazed over - her, fighting back tears in the struggle not to fall apart.
Inside the house, people had realised something was wrong. It’s amazing how people rally when something awful happens.
Excuses were already being made to our guests in attempt to afford us some modicum of privacy. The party was ending abruptly, with people making a swift exit. I headed inside, back into the hectic ness of birthday madness and number 6 balloons, in a dazed search to inform the appropriate people as I realised that nearly everyone you held dear was currently under my roof.
We probably hold the world record for how quickly an entire house was emptied and tidied after a birthday party, rushing to get organised and get back to you. I can’t recall why cleaning was even a priority. Why weren’t we already in the car?
It wasn’t until I was picking up my handbag and looking for my keys that I heard him.... my little boy, sitting alone at the dining table, quietly singing happy birthday to himself as he played a game of cards... and realised I’d forgotten his birthday cake.
By the grace of God, there was still enough family present to pull it off. We sang, cheered, and videoed it - with a strained but flawless visage that would impress even the most well-versed actors. I still can't bring myself to watch it back.
And bless him, he didn’t know any different.
But it’s not the point; I knew.
I felt like I was failing. Failing him. Failing you. Simply masquerading as an adult. I’ve never really felt like one, with a heavy sense of imposter syndrome, especially present in things like Parents' Evenings and Doctors’ appointments.
At that moment, I was inexplicably relieved that I had said no to letting five of his school friends join him and his cousin for a sleepover that evening. Could you imagine?
Though I took comfort knowing whilst we would be by our father’s bedside, our children would be together under one roof, with our respective partners holding the Fort.
You should have seen their faces, Dad, the men, as we left them in charge of all three children with no idea when we would return. I couldn’t see it at that moment, but looking back on it, you would have found it funny.
In a sort of numb trance, we gathered our overnight things and headed to be by your side.
I am relieved you’re not in pain anymore. It was hard to watch. No one wants to watch a loved one suffer. Or anyone, really. Not that I’m the most emotionally mature person to begin with. I still cry at adverts. I know I’m soft. I’m not ashamed of it. I never have been. I think the world could use a bit more understanding. Empathy is underrated. That's something you had for people in bundles... empathy.
The downside is, I was unarmed. My arsenal was empty. I had nothing to fall back on, no stiff upper lip, no big girl pants to pull up. No nothing. I faced the next few days like a deer in headlights.
Surprisingly, once we arrived, I had itchy feet with the situation... it was stagnant, and nothing was happening. We were just watching your shit situation getting worse by the day whilst you refused to let anyone help. I can’t explain it. That awful feeling of time passing when someone is suffering. Waiting for the enviable. It’s an unexplainable, gritty, emptiness.
I don't know why I expected it to be quick. I guess I kind of assumed that when a person gave up, so did their body. I thought the same with funerals. Did you know when someone dies, their funeral isn't over the next few days? It takes weeks? Because I didn't. Burying someone two days after Christmas, is, well, God it’s awful.
Sometimes, I try to blame you for how things ended. How awful is that? I have moments where I blame you, using my anger to fuel me. To cope. To make it through that day, that hour, that minute. But I know that’s selfish. Everyone has the right to die at home with their children. I just wish you’d warned us. Given us a chance to know what that would entail.
To educate ourselves on end-of-life care.
Who knew when people are close to death, they jump up and attempt the Mexican wave? You scared the shit out of me. I feel like you did it on purpose, waiting until we were alone in the room, only to perform the ultimate jump scare. You would have found it hilarious. I honest to God, nearly wet myself.
But I can't help thinking, if you hadn’t been so stubborn, if you’d gotten into that ambulance, they would have put a care package in place for you. We could have been your daughters in those final days. Not your under-certified, terrified, nurses.
I can't explain to you the fear of having to call emergency services for a parent. I pray that when I pass, if I'm to suffer, my children are nowhere to be seen.
It's moments like that that I’m finding hard to forgive.
Did you know, when some form of support finally arrived, they explained that the sedation we’d opted for had not stopped your pain but only your ability to express it?
My heart shattered. I’m not sure I will ever fully recover from that. It creeps into my mind when I’m trying to fall asleep, making any kind of rest impossible.
I’m sorry. I didn’t realise this would be such a self-fulfilling pity party when I started writing. I think it must be helping me process.
I’m not even sure if you knew you were going to die. You didn’t seem to understand when the paramedics explained what the consequences of not going to the hospital could be. Or when I held that phone to your ear as the doctor explained the possibility of not making it through the weekend.
Or when you asked me what the signed DNR form was, when I picked it up and read it, shocked. I wish I’d been there when the nurses explained to you what you were signing. Sod's law they would come round in the couple of hours I’d popped home for supplies and, well, my own sanity.
With a young baby at home and a son who thrives on routine, I didn't really have a choice. My own health was snowballing downhill at an alarming pace. Sometimes you just have to step out, if only to gain a little perspective. You have to breathe. You have to go on living. However unfair it seems.
But you'd had enough. I get that. It was your choice, and yours alone to make.
Little things that keep bringing me back to that moment. How you must have felt... how hard it must have been...
Take this morning, for example. And prepare yourself, Dad, because as usual, I'm going to overshare. This morning, I found out I have a UTI. It smarts like the dickens, but mostly it's small and inconvenient. It got me thinking how tough you were at the end, with a bladder infection that lasted two years. How unlucky it was to be antibiotic-resistant. How debilitating something like a simple UTI could be, on top of someone's rapidly declining health.
It must have been horribly tiring, hobbling back and forth to the bathroom constantly, with your lungs as frail as they were, and your feet so painfully swollen. Not to mention, how little sleep you were getting. God, it must have been awful. You must have been beyond exhausted.
That’s why, when I think of what you asked of us, I try to remember it’s not easy to watch anyone die, regardless of circumstance. That you had every right to ask it, especially of me. I must remember to be grateful that you are at peace, that you are not in pain, and that you died with no regrets.
It’s the only time in my life that I’ve wished I was religious. If I believed in a better place, it might make it easier. I guess, when every day is such a horrendous struggle, and the pain will only get worse, anything is better than here.
I mustn’t be angry that it took four days. Four days, in which we sat helplessly, watching you suffer.
Four days the earth stood still.
I find myself wondering if you would have done it differently if you’d only known how it would play out.
Do you know, even now, I don’t think people know that I’m not your biological daughter? As I stood at that podium, reading the opening to your eulogy, I thought about telling them. Announcing to a room full of strangers, proudly, that you weren’t my biological father, yet I was unquestionably yours. You raised me no different to my sisters. If anything, you overcompensated at times; it was beautiful.
Given the circumstances… I did the best I could. I even wore the necklace you got me for Christmas… I wish you could have seen me open it. I cried through my entire speech, but I didn't crumble. You would have been proud.
You have been, and will always be, the twinkle of light in an otherwise sad childhood. A beacon of friendship I fear I will never have again. You were an amazing friend to me, and in the end that’s all it comes down to. Relationships; understanding, friendship and support.
I’m glad I found the strength to thank you for everything you did for me before it was too late. I’m thankful I didn’t shy away from the hard conversations and kept my nerve long enough to get the words out. I feel so lucky that your last words to me were, ‘It’s been my pleasure.’ It leaves me speechless every time I think about it. And boy, what a line to go out on.
I’m so immensely proud you were my dad.
You’ve been so incredibly good to me. You’ve given me a sense of self and a thousand memories to hold onto. Some of them good, some of them bad; most of them funny. You were the one solid constant in my life. My foundation. My friend. My father. I will forever be grateful to you, for stepping up and teaching me, unequivocally, that family is not simply about blood, it’s about bond.
Those memories will last a lifetime.
After all, that’s all any of us are in the end… memories.
That's it. I think I'm done.
Oh, and Dad, you were wrong. The pleasure was all mine.
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented