Thursday, 18 April 2013

The waiting game...

It's been a hard week for us, following Dad's death.

Life was practically on hold for all of us; I was able to get a couple of days off work (Bereavement Leave), but really and truly, they aren't enough. There just isn't enough time to figure out solutions to all the problems, when your mind is travelling at a million miles an hour in all directions at once, you're in shock and grief, and trying to figure out something becomes a gazillion times more difficult. How the hell do they expect people to cope with it all in a few short days?

The family has, of course, rallied round to support Mum (we're a fairly close family, thankfully), and try to figure out how to proceed; the guide that the A&E department gave us was helpful as far as it went, but it's become horribly apparent that it's woefully out of date in several key places; likewise, the list the funeral directors gave us for venues was unfortunately slightly misleading - not their fault - as one venue that I will not name at this time flat-out refused to accept bookings unless you worked in a specific profession, despite that fact that it was advertising itself as a conference and event venue.

Things like that really don't help when you're experiencing severe grief, and I'm glad it was my sister to discover this on the phone to them, rather than me, as I suspect - hell, I know - that my temper would have snapped. I strongly suspect we'll be following this up with certain people after the funeral, when calmer heads will be in place, but it's still got me - and many family members - extremely incensed.

The meeting with the parish priest went well, at any rate, and we've got the order of service for Dad's cremation organised, with a couple of small details to finalise (music, in the main). The job I dreaded, but feel I need to do, delivering the Eulogy, has been split in two, thankfully; there'll be two, the first from a member of one of his main pastime groups, which will take that pressure off me to do those justice, given that I was never involved in those - my pastimes are substantially different than Dad's were.

This will leave me free to deliver the second eulogy, which will be the family side of things; it wasn't easy to write, and anyone who tells you writing their father's eulogy is easy didn't do him justice at all. It took more rewrites than I care to number, but I came up with one that both my Mum and Sister, and I, come to that, are all agreed on; you obviously can't be happy with a eulogy, but it does the job of expressing what we want to express, while giving Dad a fitting tribute that everyone else can understand and follow.

A couple of hints to others reading this, who will eventually write a family eulogy for their loved one - give yourself a lot of places to pause and breath; you'll need them. And practice reading it aloud as you write it. You'll need the time and practice, trust me.

Anyhow, we've got the first available slot at the crematorium booked, and now it's a waiting game, and that's going to wind up being more wearing as the days march on - it's not for a fortnight.

Dad had more friends than you could shake a stick at, and the funeral is likely to be a ten-ring circus, standing in the isles in scale. Not withstanding the disgusting response from that venue mentioned above that we approached, finding a venue for the wake was a trial, but has also finally been accomplished, and booked.

The paperwork search goes on apace; my brother-in-law - he's rather good at this sort of thing - managed to find a lot of the required paperwork, insurance, assurance, utilities, and so on, but several things still elude us, and it's a nightmarish lesson for me; for all the organisation that Dad had, his filing system is really testing us, it's so totally counter-intuitive that it almost beggars belief. Still, it worked for Dad, so we have to dig in and try to get to the bottom of it. I'm reorganising my paperwork so that anyone picking up the pieces after my own passing won't have quite so trying a time in putting it all together.

My sister has an appointment with the Registry Office people today, and she'll collect the Death Certificates - ten of them - to pass to the various agencies and companies that'll need them; it seems the Registry Office can deal with a lot of these for us - it's a service that they offer, which take a large weight off the family's shoulders, but there are some, such as the bank, funeral directors, insurance and assurance companies, and so on, that we still have to notify and provide with a certificate; my sister, a book keeper by trade, is dealing with those - she speaks the language they understand.

And then there's me. I'm on hold until the funeral.

I find that I'm going to work, coming home, and brooding; I'm remembering times we had together, things we enjoyed, holidays, and. brutally, realising that there was so damned much that I should have said, that I thought we had oceans of time for, that I can never now say or discuss with him, both serious and light; it's a hell of a kick in the guts when such realisation sinks in. I know it's a process of grief, but that doesn't make it any easier to suffer.

Writing about it all, as I'm doing now, helps, but there's still that gaping void in all our lives where he once stood, that we have to get used to, and that's not going to be easy.

But then, it's not supposed to be easy, is it?

Saturday, 13 April 2013


This is a bloody nightmare. We expected it, of course, but not for a fair few years yet; at least, I thought that was the case; not so my Mum or Sister, who apparently knew better than I did.

On Thursday, 11th April 2013, my father died.

I was just about to hit the sack at around 6am, when I got a call from my brother-in-law. "It's not good news. It's your Dad." Mum had tried to call me, but had called my mobile, and the signal here sucks massively; I'm binning my current provider when the contract expires, but that's not for something like six months yet. And Mum hit the wrong button on the speed dial, or something, so her next call was to my sister, some ten miles away from her; I'm three miles distant.

We both arrived at the same time; I'd have got there sooner if I didn't drive a land rover: They're not built for speed, and my sister pulled out all the stops - literally, by the look of it, as she seemed to have driven in a manner most unlike her normal sedate driving habit. Amazing the things you notice when tragedy strikes. We found the ambulance crews (one Paramedic fast responder, and a crew of two from an ambulance), bringing him out of the house, with CPR still ongoing, and our mum in utter shock, as you'd expect. Never being one to like hurrying up and waiting, I got my sister to help mum get ready to come out to the hospital (she actually had her head on a damn sight better than I did, and had mum grab some food and her daily meds), while I leapt back into my Landie and shot off to the hospital, to meet the ambulance when I arrived. I didn't want him to not have anyone waiting for him, odd as that might sound.

I beat the ambulance there by a couple of minutes, and legged it through the minor injuries reception to A&E, to find them still performing CPR as he was wheeled into the Resuscitation Unit. A couple of minutes later, one of the ambulance crew came out, wheeling the stretcher back to the ambulance, and I introduced myself, and asked what the situation was.

Over the last couple of years, Dad had suffered from a really painful leg problem, which occasionally woke him at odd hours. This appears to have been one such occurrence. It seemed that dad had tried to stand up, and then pitched forwards and landed heavily. My mum found him like that seconds after he'd landed, not breathing or having a pulse. This was sounding horribly familiar: My uncle had passed in a similar manner almost twenty years previously. Mum called the ambulance service, and to instructions provided to her, over the phone by ambulance control room staff, had performed CPR until the ambulance crews had arrived, who then took over, intubating dad, hooking him up to the ECG monitor, and doing their level best to resuscitate him. They'd then taken him to the hospital, still performing CPR in the back of the ambulance, where we now were. I thanked the man (I think his name is Dave), and the rest is a bit of a blur, but half an hour later, I was given the bad news by the A&E doctor.

Dad was gone. And for me, in that horrible instant, time briefly stood still. When everything started up again for me, I was sitting in the small family room, clutching a blue-roll tissue, with the Doctor waiting outside for me to pull myself together.

One of the things they don't show you in all those hospital dramas is what happens next. The hospital staff expect this, of course, but not the dramas. They remove all the medical paraphernalia they've used from the person they've tried to save, and ask you, if you don't ask first, if you'd like to say goodbye. I beat them to this question, which I think was a bit of a relief to them, as some people have a fear of seeing dead people. I'm not about to describe what I saw. It's personal to us, and will stay with us until we, too, pass on. Suffice to say, dad was finally out of pain, at peace, and gone. I said my goodbye, and checked to see where my mum and sister were; turned out they'd only just arrived at the main entrance to the hospital. I made my way to them, and brought them to A&E to allow them to say their goodbyes too.

I also took the time to thank the Ambulance crews for their help and professionalism, even though the efforts were in ultimately vain. I'll have to write a letter to them before long, but the important and immediate thanks were given, and that's important.

I also thanked the hospital staff. They see this every day; the rest of us are in blissful ignorance, of course, until the worst happens. It's so routine to them - as it should, I suppose, be - that they've quite literally got everything down on paper. There's even a booklet, "Information for bereaved family and friends" that they give you, when someone close to you passes away in the A&E department. It's a useful reference for what comes next, telling you what to expect, what you should be doing next, and so on.

As dad died in A&E, the coroner would have to be informed, and he or she would then decide whether a post mortem was required, or if a notification of death form could be signed by the hospital and so on; we were to call them and make contact.

I did this just after they opened for business - ye gods, "Business?!" I guess that's what it is, but bloody hell! - and was told that the coroner had ordered a post mortem, due to dad's medical history. Fair enough, I suppose, and it'd give us a proper reason, and thus closure. I asked when this would be, guessing that it's take a few days, at least, to get organised, but was surprised to find that it'd take place on Friday, and that we'd had a summary of the findings on Friday afternoon.

The rest of the day was, understandably, somewhat disjointed for us; Mum, wanting to be alone to pull herself together - our family is made of tough stuff at times, what can I say - managed to shove us out the door, so my sister hauled me off to grab breakfast, call my works, and start making notifications to the rest of the family and friends.

Time passed, a not very restful nights sleep, and it was Friday. And I got a call from the coroner at around half past ten that morning, informing me of the results of the post mortem - incredibly fast, that, for which I was grateful, I, like my dad before me, hate waiting.

It transpires that dad had a truly massive heart failure due to something called Ischaemic Heart Disease. He would, likely as not, have been gone before he hit the floor, for which we are all grateful: It was mercifully fast. There were other non-direct, but contributory causes as well, but the important reason was known. We'd been wondering if it was a stroke, or his ticker.

Closure is variably rated by most everyone I talk to about the topic; some think it's not necessary, others believe it to be a vitally required thing. But however you look at it, it has its uses; for us, it answered the most important question of all: Did he suffer? The answer was, thankfully, no, not much at all, if he even could feel anything at all, in his last few moments.

This now opened the way forward for us.

We knew that dad had written a note to us, which was in his study, describing how he wanted his passing to be run, what his funeral arrangements were to be, and so on.

Could we find this damn thing? Could we bleep. For such an organised man, his filing system was, to put it charitably, unique. My brother in law's over there today, trying to make sense of it all, as I type this before I go to work.

Thankfully, dad had told us all, at various times over the last few years, how he wanted things to go, so most of it we already know, and the funeral directors have been appraised.

Dad was a popular man; he had more friends than I can shake a stick at, many of whom I'll be meeting at the wake; the funeral will be for family and close friends, as per Dad's wishes; he wanted us to celebrate his life, not be dismal about his passing; it's an oddly refreshing view from a man who was in many ways, very traditional and old-school in his thinking on so many different topics (and you didn't want to push his button on trains; By God, he could lecture on that for bloody weeks at a time!).

It'll be a good way to send him on his way to eternity, whatever your views on God (Yes, I'm a believer) and Organised Religion (and I have a fair few opinions on that, which I tend, for the most part, to keep to myself as well), it all has a place in our lives. It had a major place in my Dad's life as well, and I like to think that Dad's now looking down at us from above the clouds, having a laugh at the antics we're up to, and pointing to the place in his study that none of us have even thought of looking, yelling "It's in there, you idiots!"

However. all levity and other stuff aside, at the end of all of this, despite all the agreements, disagreements, discussions, arguments, laughs, and all the other moments and things and stuff that Sons and Fathers share, there is one, inescapable, irrevocable, unshakable truth that I know:

I'll miss my dad.

Rest in peace, mate, and put a beer on that heavenly bar for when I eventually get up there to join you.