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  • 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.
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