A year ago today, my Dad had his last thought. I don’t know exactly what it was, but I’ve been assuming that the anesthesiologist who put him under for his brain surgery asked him to count backwards from 10 and the last thing he said was probably 10-9-8… What was the last thing he said other than that? I wished I’d asked the surgeon, but given the circumstances, it didn’t come to mind to ask him1. If I had to bet, I’d say he cracked a joke. My Dad never passed up an opportunity to crack a joke.
Naturally, I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot as this day approached. I mean, I’ve been thinking about him a lot since the day we learned he had a brain tumour last January and all through this year we’ve spent without him. I’ve written this blog posting in my head about a million times over the last month or so, and I can never get it right. How could I? I miss my Dad so much, every single day, and I don’t know how to express it. It’s mix of sorrow, anger, disbelief, love, and a hollow place that will never be filled. All the things he’ll miss out on. All the times we could have had.
I try to remind myself of the good times, the good memories. I try to remind myself that the loss of my Dad hurts so much because I loved him so much. And he loved me. And I was lucky to have a good and loving Dad. But it’s hard to remember that without thinking about how it’s unfair that I only got to have him around for 35 years. I should have had longer. It wasn’t nearly enough.
But it doesn’t do me any good to go down that line of thought for too long, because it’s not like it can bring him back. Though I do believe that it’s entirely healthy to let myself feel the sadness sometimes2, but not to wallow in it forever. And it’s not like he would have wanted me to wallow in sadness. My dad was generally a happy guy3 – he loved to tell jokes and make people laugh – our family gatherings were always full of jokes and laughter and I’m sure he liked it that way. I know I did.
I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife; as far as I can tell, once you die, you are gone. So I’m not going to see him again ever, and that’s hard. I take some comfort, as I’ve mentioned before, in the knowledge that he didn’t suffer, because he really valued quality of life and living life to its fullest, and the fact that his eyes were donated so that two people who would be blind otherwise can now see, because I know he would have liked that. I know that the best way I can honour his memory is to be a person who does some good in the world, the way he and my mom raised me to be.
After my Dad’s surgery, we waited in the hospital for three days before the doctors were able to tell the extent of the damage that had happened to his brain during his surgery and the fact that he was never, ever going to wake up. The only thing keeping him alive were the machines he was hooked up to – a state that he had clearly told us he never wanted to be in – and so we took him off the machines. And then we sat vigil with him until he took his last breath and his heart stopped beating, some 14 hours later. So while today marks one year since my Dad’s last conscious moment, his death technically happened on Feb 11. Those days in the hospital, waiting hopefully for him to wake up, only to be crushed by the news that he never would, seemed an eternity. Yet the year that has gone by since then has gone by in flash. And I still can’t believe it happened at all.
I wish I had some happy, hopeful way to end this posting, but I think this is one of those times that I just have to feel my sadness.
I really miss my Dad.
- I don’t know why I’m so concerned with this thought, but I am. After he died, I racked my brain for “what was the last thing he said to me and I to him?” We were sitting in the waiting area the hospital chatting when they called his name and we hadn’t realized that they were calling him into surgery – we thought he was just going to fill in some paperwork – and so we thought we’d have a chance to give him a hug and wish him luck before he went into the OR. I can’t remember what we were talking about, though my sister says it was hockey, which seems like something we would have been talking about. I truly believed he was going to come out of that surgery and be OK, and didn’t actually think that that might be the last time I’d ever talk to him. [↩]
- Sometimes I think about him – maybe a line in a song triggers it, or something happens and I think “I have to call Dad and tell him!” but then remember I can’t – and I end up crying in my kitchen or my parking garage. It doesn’t happen a lot, but seems to hit me when I’m least expecting it. [↩]
- Don’t get me wrong – my dad wasn’t a pollyanna by any stretch – he could really get going on a rant about things that pissed him off (see: various Toronto Maple Leafs personalities through the years; most politicians), but I think his general disposition was to see things in a positive light. [↩]