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  • It was four years ago today that we celebrated your last birthday together
    You were sixty-eight and dying a slow and dignified death of cancer
    I was thirty-two and reluctantly accepting that there would be no miracle
    I sat on the edge of your bed in the hospice, a chair being too distant
    I held your hand and we shared the silence together
    The sound of Hannah opening and reading your cards the only punctuation

    I noticed things so clearly that day; colours, fragrances, sounds
    It was as if I was seeing, smelling and hearing for two
    That I was all too aware that your senses were departing you
    As I walked across the car park, I tried to absorb everything around me
    I felt like a bird, gathering food for its young
    I wanted to feed you all the beauty that was in the world
    I wanted to make you strong again

    It was a glorious late summer day, much as it is today
    I remember thinking that winter would soon be coming
    I started to worry, about you falling or slipping
    I thought of how cold you’d been the previous winter
    How no amount of heat had been able to warm you
    Then I heard my own voice inside my head
    Telling me that you wouldn’t have to endure that again

    Roz had asked if she should bring the camera that morning
    I’d said no, that I wanted to be able to remember you as you’d lived
    Full of smiles, full of love, full of life
    Not as you were dying, so tired and weary
    I regretted that decision the moment I saw you
    I wanted to capture every second you had left
    Every moment we had left to share together

    I started to tell you how beautiful it was outside
    I so desperately wanted you to see it, to feel it
    I asked if you would like to go out in the gardens
    That I could push you in a wheelchair
    I was worried that you might say no
    But you said that you would like that

    I asked Roz and Hannah if they wanted to come with us
    But they knew and I knew that this time was for you and me alone
    As I helped you into the wheelchair, covering your legs with a warm blanket
    I thought again how things go around in circles
    How your cancer had slowly returned you to being the helpless infant
    As it had turned me into the nurturing parent
    Just at that moment, I wished so desperately
    That our roles could be reversed again

    The hospice gardens were at their peak
    As we followed the little paths between the rose bushes
    I kept stopping to point out the perfect blooms
    And you told me that you could smell their scent
    I asked you how you felt
    You said the sun felt good on your skin
    I said that we’d have to do this again
    But we both knew that we wouldn’t

    We got to the centre of the rose garden, a circular opening
    Filled with hardwood benches and surrounded by rose-covered arches
    I parked your wheelchair alongside a bench and I sat down beside you
    I took your hand in mine and we gripped each other so tightly
    I started to cry, softly at first, then it became uncontrollable
    Tears flooded down my cheeks and onto my chest and lap
    Pain-filled sobs escaped from my lips
    You gripped me tightly and said, “I know lad, I know”

    We sat there for the longest time, together in our silence
    Then a nurse who was wheeling another patient around came over
    She’d been watching us together and asked if we minded her taking our picture
    She said she could just see so much love between us
    I put my arm around you and hugged you tight
    I poured all my love for you into that picture
    I wanted the whole world to know how much I loved you
    I wanted them to know what a wonderful person you were

    We didn’t stay out there much longer
    We’d said what we needed to say, in actions if not in words
    I knew things would be different after that day and they were
    Your body grew weaker but it wasn’t just that
    You were so very tired and weary
    I think you had accepted your fate
    Just as I had finally accepted that there are some things love cannot overcome

    It was four years ago today that we celebrated your last birthday together
    Today I celebrate it on my own
    The feeling of loss doesn’t seem to get any easier
    I’ve just got more used to living with it
    What has remained easy is the way you make me smile
    So many times, I’ll stop in my tracks as I remember something funny
    And I’ll pause and say, “I love you, Dad”

    Photo by mrhayata
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