I was with my Dad when he died. It was a Tuesday.
Each year on 1 April, when grandkids are putting into practice those well-rehearsed April Fools’ Day pranks, my inclination to laugh and join in is often contrived, and at best, a half-hearted attempt at appearing amused. The day holds significance for me in another way, and I often take shelter in a world where nature allows me to indulge my senses, and gentle memories can surface, despite the frivolity that surrounds me. These anniversaries, are now no longer a melancholy salute to a much loved parent, instead they are opportunities to reflect and unravel the mysteries of life, – plots, seemingly hidden in the never-ending chapters of a book.
Dad had not been sick for long, but looking back over the last years of his life, there were signs that all was not right and the cancer that killed him had been weaving its deadly threads through an unfinished tapestry of life and achievement. Dad’s story is an interesting one, but as with all stories based on memories, there will always be a different interpretation of what made up the tale. Individual recollections will determine what’s written on the pages, what stitches colour the tapestry. So my memories of Dad and how I share them with my children and grandchildren, mirror my connection with him in heart and mind, as much as being an accurate recounting of a life well-lived in the eyes of others.
He was a farmer, a great wool man and it is in that context that I like to remember him. Especially on that final Tuesday morning when he seemed to be waiting for the sun to rise before leaving the rest of us behind. He deserved that sort of death, he was in a familiar “space” as we call it these days, and as the first rays of light softened the gloom, he peacefully drifted away. To say I felt the faintest breeze and heard a rustling sigh, may now seem fanciful or a figment of my imagination, but that is how I like to shroud the reality of being in that stark hospital room, at that time. I was struggling with hat was happening to someone I loved and in the company of someone who I could not really help, as she questioned and grieved in a different way.
Life can hold us in a terrible grip. There are times when we cry out and struggle vainly against its restrictions and confinement. Life takes cruel turns when we feel relaxed or even safe, but it is in the living that we learn the lessons only life can teach us. Some lessons we dread, some we ignore, some allow us to grow stronger as we accept the tutoring and continue our own journey. Life can surprise and reward, it can bring joy and satisfaction. Above all, life is the loom on which we weave our own tapestry, mixing threads and colours, patterns and images, all connected randomly or with purpose.
In thinking of Dad today, I realise how lucky I was to be with him that morning, and how unbelievably difficult it must be for families and loved ones in these dark times, to receive notice that a life well-lived has ended. Alone and unaccompanied, they are dying with no farewell, no final touch or a tear dropping silently onto a cooling hand. There is no stirring breeze as a soul departs. It is the current, stark reality where we witness a whole generation being taken from younger generations, and children and grandchildren who have not known loss like this in their time, struggle to understand.
In the January following Dad’s death, almost to the day, I found myself holding a newborn little girl, as I greeted the sun peeping through the window of a small country hospital. The piercing sunrise was guaranteeing another hot day, the raucous cicadas were heralding long hours of heat and stillness, but I am sure I remember a soft breeze moving the curtains and a gentle sigh briefly stirring the baby in my arms.