You were confused
And tired, so very tired
Tired of all the pain and indignity
Tired of relying on others
Tired of seeing your children run ragged
Tired of being a burden (which of course, you weren't).
I sat in a hospital chair by your side
I looked into your still bright eyes
The rest of your body failing
But here the old you remained
The you who'd always had a kind word for everyone
The man I loved so much it hurt.
You were always a good father to me
Though I didn't always appreciate it
As a child only words of love are heard
Mother's words because men couldn't say those things
Looking back now, I remember my Mother's words
And I also remember how your love enveloped me, keeping me safe.
The energy that had drained away over two years
Returned to you that day with a vengeance
No-one told me that it meant the end was near
Not that it would have changed anything
We'd taken the opportunities to say things that not every father and son has
I didn't want you to leave but I knew you were ready.
You said you were thirsty and I got you a drink
Out of a shiny red training cup with a lid
You were finding it hard to hold a teacup
You kept spilling hot tea all down yourself
And it made you so upset, so angry with yourself
And so sorry for making work for the nurses
The circle of life became clear to me then
As I watched your return to infanthood.
Things were on your mind that day
You worried about money
You wanted your "boys" to be OK when you had gone
You thought you had misplaced £400
I knew it was in the hospice safe but I gently helped you look for it
You calmed down and fell into a light sleep.
I sat there for two hours and thought how cruel cancer was
But I also thought of the good times throughout your illness
The memories shared and the things that were said that so often aren't
And I thought of your gracious acceptance of your fate
"It's just one of those things" you said, you never complained
I softly said "I love you, Dad"
And you made a noise in response which I took as "I love you too".
As it grew dark, I knew I had to leave you
I still had 200 miles to drive home
I took your hand in mine (it felt so soft and weak) and you opened your eyes
"I have to go, Dad" I said and you squeezed my hand with all of your old strength
"Don't go yet" you said, "Stay with me a little longer"
This was the first time you'd asked me for anything
In your two years of being terminally ill
I said "Sure" and squeezed your hand again.
I stayed for another hour
We didn't talk as you drifted in and out of sleep
But I kept squeezing your hand and each time you squeezed mine back
Eventually I had to leave - you needed to sleep and I had to get away from the hospice
I sat on the bed to hug you and again your renewed strength surprised me and winded me
I kissed your cheek (stubbly because you could no longer shave yourself) and said "I love you, Dad"
You looked me in the eyes and said "I know"
I think I knew then that those were your last words.
The following day at work I had a call from the hospice
"Your Father slipped into a coma during the night, it's only a matter of time now"
In the early hours of the following morning I was woken by another call
"You had better come now, it's almost over"
I dressed and drove those 200 miles back to the hospice
I met my brother there and together we sat with you
You seemed in a deep sleep but your breathing was laboured
We sat either side of your bed, each holding one of your hands
The nurse said that you might be able to hear us
so we both talked about all the good times and told you we loved you
And then with one big sigh it was over
Your suffering was at an end.
Two and a half years have passed now
And I still think of you daily
I don't get upset all the time anymore
I tend to think more of the good times
And there were so many
And I have no "if only", no "I wish that..."
No, everything that we wanted to say was spoken
And the last thing you said to me
Was acknowledging how much I loved you.