Dad - The Final Chapter... Saying Goodbye.
All she said was that you'd taken a turn for the worse, and I had better come home... I dropped everything and ran out of the office sobbing "Dad is bad, I have to go"; once I got to the car, I rang Luke to meet me there (he was still dropping the kids off at school); and I drove like a mad woman all the way around to your house praying constantly (and in a flood of tears the whole time). "Hang in there Dad, hold on - I need to say goodbye first. I am not ready yet, so hang in there" over and over again - how I got there safely, and didn't get pulled over nor hit anyone, is just God looking out for me. Mum says I turned into the drive so fast she thought I was going to take the gate out. I will never forget that phonecall...
You were still with us - to this day I am not 100% sure of exactly what happened, but I understand you'd decided to try having a shower by yourself, so had got up while Mum was in the kitchen, to get yourself ready. Mum came out to find you very unsteady sitting on the end of the bed - totally disorientated and confused. She gently told you off, and took you back to bed, but the effort was so much, that you fell into her arms unconscious. One of the home-help ladies arrived during this time, and was able to help Mum get you sorted and comfortable on the bed, but apparently it was a good 20-30 minutes before you came round. Andrew was with you by the time I arrived, and had spent time talking to you - he was heading off to Hamilton for a two day course, I tried talking him out of it (as had Mum and Amy), but he was determined; so we had to let him go. He told us he'd essentially said his goodbyes to you that morning, and wasn't expecting to see you again... Luke and Uncle Max turned up not long after he left, and they eventually helped you back down to the Hospice bed in the lounge; and basically you never left it again.
I stayed with you and Mum that morning, and began sorting out a roster with family and friends, so Mum was never left alone again - as I didn't want her to be by herself when you passed away. I managed to get back to work for 3-4 hours that afternoon, but from then on I spent the nights with you and Mum sleeping in the lounge... I took all of Thursday off work, and spent most of the day with you; folk from church and other friends floated in and out, and spent time with you. Luke and I also went down to the Funeral Home and started the paperwork - we were told that it is good to get as much of the formalities done before hand as possible, because once you go - we'd be in shock, and would forget things (how true that advice was). So Mum and I quietly went through these, and also went through family photos and choose the photos for the service sheets, and the slide show. Talking and laughing about times gone by, sharing memories and just being together - with you.
That Thursday was also yours and Mum's 43rd wedding anniversary - Mum roused you in the morning, and you were awake enough to say 'I love you' to her, the kids also visited that morning before school - and you managed to say hello to both of them individually, but it was such a mammoth effort for you, and some of your last ever words.
Uncle Warren came up later that same morning - he was to officiate your service, with your blessing; this had been arranged when he visited you at the Hospice, and as a family we were thrilled with the idea... So we went through a few things with him, like order of service etc; and took him down to our church, and showed him the basic lay-out. This was really hard on Mum, and she broke down at this point; it felt like we were betraying you, because you hadn't actually gone yet, but we also knew it was only a matter of time.
I spent Thursday night with you and Mum again - this time getting a few more hours sleep, Amy had taken the next day off, and Andrew was back from Hamilton; so I decided to attempt to get some work done. I went in at 9am thinking I'd just stay until lunch, but ended up there the entire day... That day my Mother-In-Law came over from Tauranga, and stayed until Monday with Luke and the kids - which was a massive blessing, as we still had Button's 7th Birthday Party on Sunday afternoon to get through. On Friday evening it was just me, Mum and Andrew at home - and we spent the evening as a family just talking and reminiscing, and even though you were fully unconscious by now, I know you could still hear us... later on Uncle Max also came over, and we heard a whole lot of childhood memories as well; it's always funny to hear 'the other side' of the stories we heard growing up. It was a wonderful evening, and as it turned out, our last evening with you; I am so glad we grabbed the opportunity to share and laugh and grieve together in those final days with you.
On the Saturday I went home and spent the middle of the day with my family - the kids and Luke needed me. I took Button out shopping for her party, and went and bought a lot of party food; the only homemade item at that party was her cake, and Luke was making that! Early afternoon my Mother-In-Law offered to take them for a walk as they were getting restless; I didn't want to go, as I didn't want to be to far away from a phone or a car; we knew you wouldn't last much longer, and I hated being away from you even that long. I wanted to head back over, but Luke asked me to stay until the kids got back so I could say goodbye... but at 2:49pm I got the dreaded phonecall from Andrew to say you were gone.
I wailed from the bottom of my gut; there is no other way to describe the gut-wrenching noise that escaped my being when I took that call, I am sure the entire neighbourhood heard. Luke came running in, and just held me until I had calmed down enough to breathe... by then people had started gathering, and my Mother-In-Law arrived back with the kids. I explained to the children that you had gone to be with Jesus, and Mummy had to go and say goodbye; and then left them standing there. I knew they'd be ok - and I desperately needed to see you; Luke couldn't get me there fast enough. After hugs and sobbing with Mum and Andrew, I went and said my final goodbye - you were already looking like wax, the changes happening so fast...
Andrew told me it was all very peaceful - which is exactly what you wanted, and what we'd prayed for... your breathing has always been loud, so we could hear you all over the house (which was reassuring in those final days); so apparently when you went quiet for 30 seconds it caught Andrew's attention immediately, he called for Mum who came running up the hall... you made a couple more gasps, did a little shudder and then you were gone. So peaceful Dad; no fighting, just straight into the arms of Jesus.
After half an hour or so sobbing and talking, my Mother-In-Law rang, my son was distraught and she couldn't settle him, he wouldn't even eat. So Luke spoke to him on the phone, and then I did - but it just made him worse, so we raced back home (I was ready by then to face them and help them walk through their grief). It took 20 minutes or so to calm him down enough to get some food into him, and he was desperate to see you and say goodbye as well... I didn't know if I wanted them to see you like that, but I let them decide, and they both wanted to see you. So we headed back again, and their cousin also came just after we got there, as he wanted to say goodbye to you as well. The Funeral Director was arriving about 5pm to take you, we'd asked him to wait a couple of hours as Uncle Max and Aunty Wendy were in Cambridge and also wanted the opportunity to say goodbye to you at home - Luke & Amy took the respective kids back home, but Andrew and I stayed on (and I stayed one last night with Mum)... Uncle Max and Andrew helped Derek (Funeral Director) take you out and put you in the car; that was by far the hardest thing to watch. They then came back in, and we all hugged and sobbed - there was literally a pool of tears on the floor by the time we pulled apart.
One of the hardest things I have ever had to do was to watch them take you away that afternoon - so much worse than the funeral; and I still can't talk/write about that day without feeling all those deep feelings again, and shedding tears.
I don't know how we did it, how we said goodbye and let you go; you mean the world to me, Luke and the kids Dad. Just the other day my boy lost it completely, and just sobbed in my arms because he was missing you so much. Thank you for being the kind of Pop-Pop that my children adored, and miss so deeply... I hate that they have had to face death at such young ages, but so grateful they spent so much time with you that the love was deep, and goodbye was painful.
Thank you for being my friend, my biggest advocate, my greatest cheerleader and my Dad... I am glad God chose you to show me a little bit of Him. I know you weren't perfect, but you were MY DAD; and every little girl needs a Dad who believes in her, and thinks she is the most beautiful girl in his world - and you did that for me. I was your Princess, Mum was your Queen, and those boys were everything to you; we were everything to you.
We are family; and whether you're here with us in person, or just in spirit, nothing will change that.
And once again, said with as much depth as when I said goodbye to you at home, and again at the funeral:
Dad – I love you, I still can’t imagine doing life without you.
You will always hold a large piece of my heart in your hands.
Forever your loving daughter,