You’ll never forget the day when time stood still. That day in time when your whole world changed. When everything about that time still stands out within your mind, the smells, the sounds, the words spoken, the phone calls made, the tears of sorrow. You never forget that day in time…when your loved one left.
My Dad passed away late into the night on the 18th March 2019. I remember every single detail about the day before and the night he passed. He had been on end-of-life care for seven weeks, defying the odds, leaving doctors lost for words of explanation of how he was still with us. By this point, my siblings and I were all living at my parents, seeing this journey through to the very end together. Gabriel, my youngest son was now just 10 weeks old so he was with us too.
I remember our final day so clearly, I remember Robson my youngest brother trying to boost the morale by cooking some spatchcock chicken on the BBQ for Sunday lunch. I remember us watching cosy Sunday films, all wrapped up in blankets on the sofa with Dad sleeping peacefully in his hospital bed set up in the living room. I remember giving Gabriel his bath, putting on his pj’s, and realising I had run out of nappies, having to then drive to the only open shop on a Sunday evening (a fuel station) and settle for size 5 nappies when I needed size 2. I remember sitting next to my Dad and mapping every inch of his face, taking in every detail, his freckles, every wrinkle, his wispy hair, looking at all his chest rise and fall, noticing his breath, in hope that it would never fade.
Later into the evening our dog Riley just wouldn’t settle, he barked and barked and barked at the foot of Dad’s bed, nothing would calm him down. Nurses came in to administer stronger pain relief and make Dad more comfortable, but the unnerving energy of Riley was just too obvious to ignore, Dad was leaving us.
We all sat around him late into the evening in one big circle, completely unintentional, but it was almost like our family bond and energy was encasing him in pure love to let him know he was safe and it was ok for him to leave now, he didn’t need to suffer anymore, it was ok. We had the lights dim, candles were glowing, incense burning and we had some of his favourite songs on. My Mum didn’t move from the chair by the side of his bed, her head rested up against his arm, holding his hand tightly. My Sister sat on the other side with her head laid on the bed and her hand on his chest. I held Gabriel in my arms just listening to the beautiful sounds of the music and watching my Dad so intensely…. one breath in, one breath out, one breath in, one breath out. I felt like in split moments his face would change back to the Dad I knew before, the vibrant glowing Dad with a huge beaming smile, to then be quickly taken back into the reality of now, looking at the shell he was left with, with no brightness, all his fire for life slowly drifting away. In these final hours, it’s as though time stood still, there was nothing else to fuss over, there was nothing to even think about, there was quite simply only this moment, our very last moments, just fully in the now.
We all took it in turns to kiss dad goodnight, Mum & my Sister choosing to sleep next to him that night. I kissed him gently on his head and whispered “It’s ok Dad, I love you, let yourself rest now” I remember the warmth of his forehead, I remember the bristles on his cheeks, I remember his eyes twitching in his way to communicate back to me. I walked away with a lump in my throat, silent tears rolling down my cheeks, carrying my newborn baby up to bed and taking one last look back at him, knowing deep down that in the morning he may not be here. Those were my last words to my Dad, the last spoken connection between us, the last time I said goodbye, our very last time.
Woken just a few hours later by my sister, our Dad had gone. Peacefully, whilst we all had drifted off to sleep, he waited for that moment when we rested and parted our world. At the moment she spoke those words time stood still, clocks meant nothing, time wasn’t a concept, it had no control, everything…just…stopped.
Nothing else mattered but this moment. Nothing felt like anything, yet everything felt too much. A deep hollowness gaped open from inside all of our bodies, a black void of emptiness. Seeing my Dad laid there, with the spark gone from his soul, so evidently too, was just too much to bear. The longing for more time, the longing for some kind of rewind or reset button, the longing to just go back to when everything felt whole.
The day I lost my Dad time didn’t exist to me, the time is locked somewhere deep, somewhere heavy, frozen in pain, encased in one big memory.
We will never forget those moments in death when time stood still, they haunt us still today. They are deep, they are raw, I think that we will feel them forever, and that’s ok. It’s personally something I would never change or erase as it’s a memory still of my Dad and every memory I have now is the closest I can get to him, so I’d never wish for those memories to leave me. Embrace the bad and the good, let that deep sadness flow through your body, it’s all good.
There is no textbook in grief, there’s no right and wrong, there is no guide or rule. How you feel is valid and just let that move, don’t hold your feelings back, allow yourself to feel them.
We will never forget that day when time stood still….
You know where to reach me if you need me,