Losing My Father – The Man I Admire Most
This post is part of a mini-series about losing my Dad to cancer earlier this year. I’ve briefly explained why I’m writing it here.
On 4th May 2017 my Dad, Nigel Quinn, died from kidney cancer. It wasn’t a surprise, he’d been fighting a losing battle since his diagnosis in December the year before, but the shock was still absolute.
Looking back now, the speed of his decline is hard to comprehend. Having played rugby and been in the TA into his forties he was a fit and healthy sixty-one year old. In September 2016 he started with some back pain and just eight months later he was gone. Seven months on and just writing that still seems utterly absurd – fictional.
Obviously, everyone knows that cancer is awful but aside from it being a killer, I’d never fully stopped to consider why. People die from all kinds of diseases but there are few that engender such disgust and hatred as cancer.
It wasn’t until Dad began to suffer that the abject horror of what he was going to go through began to dawn on me. Admitting that makes me feel and sound naive – ignorant even – but I was. Blissfully.
The most honest truth is that for a while it was all about me. I was going to lose my Dad. I wouldn’t be able to see my Dad anymore. How terrible for me that I was going to have to live through this thing, and at the end of it I would lose a loved one. It was some time before I started to think about what it must have been like for him. And in reality, even now I can’t begin to imagine.
It seems too obvious to say, but I loved him like no-one else on earth. I say that very specifically because I don’t mean more than anyone else on earth. There are bonds in life that are incomparable and sometimes I think that gets lost when we bundle them all together as ‘love’. I loved my Dad, I love my Mum, my wife, my brother, my children and many other people. But those bonds, though just as strong, are as different as the people they bind me to.
One of those bonds has changed. It isn’t broken because I still feel it. Somehow frozen in time, reaching out to someone that isn’t there anymore. And it still pulls at me – at the anger and bitterness, at the self-pity, the ache of longing, the sorrow, the sadness and at the love I can no longer express.
I don’t know what I thought it was going to be like once he’d gone, and yet I didn’t expect it to be the way it has. I’d read about the typical stages of grief but that in part suggests that everyone goes through the same things, in the same order. I think what struck me far more than the change in emotion was the frequency of change, and how the phases, at least for me, weren’t in chronological order.
For at least the first three months I’d just about get to grips with what was going on, and overnight it would all change and the process of trying to understand would start over.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to try and explain some of those emotions – for no other reason than to write them down. They aren’t in any order and they certainly aren’t a suggestion of normality. Maybe you’ll relate to some and not to others, hopefully, one of them will offer you some comfort or reassurance.