Tuesday 21st February. It’s a day I will always remember. It’s the day my families lives changed forever, it’s the day my precious Dad passed away.
I still remember the day, clear as a bell. I was sitting at my computer as I’d just been talking to a real estate agent about buying a rental property. I glanced up to see a Policeman walking up my driveway, closely followed by my Mum. I knew as soon as I saw them that something had happened to my Dad. My first thought was car accident but I tried to push these thoughts to the back of my mind and hope that it wasn’t true. As they got to the already open door, I saw my Mum’s face and I knew without a doubt. “I’m sorry to tell you like this but your Dad passed away” the Policeman said. My Dad was 60 years old.
Shock takes over in those moments. I’m not sure how I didn’t lose the plot right there and then but I was able to ask what had happened. My Dad was driving in St John’s after looking at a job for his business. He was the director of an air conditioning company. He pulled over, called 111 and told the operator he thought he was having a heart attack. They asked him where he was and he gave an estimate. Then he went quiet. They took 20 minutes to find him as he was slightly further along the road than he had described. They tried to revive him for another 20 minutes but it was too late. He was gone.
I called my little brother and broke the news to him, one of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make. We went back to my parents house and I started making phone calls to let people know what had happened. That was a really difficult task. Each time, I would break down, the people I was telling would break down. It was just an unbelievable thing to have to say. My Aunty and Uncle arrived and took us down to the Auckland Hospital Morgue as we had to identify Dad’s body. We met my brother there. Walking into the room and seeing my Dad was so upsetting but also so important. He just looked like he was asleep. His face was so cold but his body was still so warm. I kept expecting him to sit up and tell us he was ok, it was just a sick joke. But he didn’t. I’m really glad we spent this time with him.
This is where things get hazy. The next six days leading up to the funeral were filled with people and it’s all a bit of a blur. We spent most of the time at my parents house. So many people were coming and going. The house was absolutely filled to the brim with flowers. I’m not sure how I even looked after the kids during that time but they survived, as did all of us. There were so many people who blessed us. People turned up with food, people tried to look after us, people said so many kind things and offered their help. But none of it brought Dad back. One of the saddest things was knowing how much Dad would have loved being there during that time. He was a fantastic host so having a constant ‘party’ at his house would have made him so happy.
Dad’s funeral was huge. They estimate about 500 people came. That’s how loved he was. We had it at the Red Beach Surf Life Saving Club, somewhere where he spent a lot of time. It was absolutely heartbreaking, it was funny, it was a wonderful celebration of his life. My Dad was an extremely generous man, he was loving, kind and smart. He was the type of person everyone wanted to be mates with, a top Kiwi bloke.
During that first week you are so protected by all of the people around you and by all of the things that have to be organised. In the weeks following, the real grieving begins. I thought that I would start feeling better each day but in a way, the longer we go without him in our lives, the worse it feels. I keep reliving his last day. Just that morning Mum had called me to invite us over for dinner as Dad wanted to have a BBQ and see the kids. We were a very close family, live very close by and saw each other all of the time. I ask myself questions about the event. If he had have stopped his car in the middle of the road and called the ambulance, would they have found him faster? Even though I know he was too proud to cause a fuss and he would have hated being responsible for an accident or anything like that. How long had he felt unwell for? Did he fall unconscious quickly? Did his life flash before his eyes? Did he know I loved him more than I love myself? It’s very hard to let things go but I just have to.
In the weeks prior to his passing, we had been to two weddings of very close family friends. It had just been the four of us; my Dad, my Mum, my brother and I. I’d seen him on Friday and he had seemed so well. So fit and healthy. Why??? Life can be so cruel. I’ve had people tell me it’s better he didn’t have to suffer through any sort of illness, that his was a quick passing. Although I do agree in a sense, what happened was so incredibly shocking that it takes such a long time to sink in. You don’t get to say your goodbyes and come to terms with what is going to happen, it’s like you heart is ripped from your body without any warning. This path is a hard one but it’s a journey we have to take.
One month today Dad. You’re still on my mind constantly. I miss you so much it hurts. I’d do anything to change what happened but I can’t. I hope I continue to make you proud. I know you’re in heaven, looking down on us all. I hope you are happy and at peace Dad. We’re trying our best to look after Mum. It’s very hard for her. She has lost so much but she will get through this. You’ll always be a part of my life, always be in my heart and I’ll always love you.