Saturday, 17 December 2011

Five Years

Amazingly,  this Christmas marks five years years since my father died.  Christmas Eve 2011 is eight years to the day since he found out he had inoperable lung cancer.

To recognise this anniversary I am reprinting the article below, which I published on this blog back in 2007.

My Father's Gift

My father was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer on Christmas Eve 2003. He had not smoked in 40 years. For three years he fought with chemotherapy and immense, quiet courage.

In late September 2006 he learned that he had bone cancer also.


Two weeks before Christmas last year (2006), my husband suggested we drive to Sydney for Christmas week. My parents' home is a couple of hours north of Sydney at the beach. We knew accommodation would be difficult to find for a family of six so close to Christmas, which falls in the Australian summer, yet amazingly our prayers were answered on my second phone call, and for about half what we expected to pay. The flat we rented was 100 metres from the beach and a short walk from my parents' house.


Despite having seen him in October, I was shocked by the deterioration in Dad's condition. He was so frail, so thin. His skin felt scaly as I stroked his hand in the white hospital ward. His head was cold when I kissed it. I visited several times over the week; we made small talk as he slipped in and out of sleep.

Dad was a highly intelligent man, a doctor and a great thinker. He would only take panadol, knowing the effect morphine would have on his mind.

Sometimes he became serious; his mind was active while his body destroyed itself. He said he could not understand why things had gone wrong; he had done everything the doctors had asked. He said, short of a miracle, my mother would be a widow within three weeks.

Dad had always defined himself as an agnostic. A rational man, he found a literal resurrection impossible to grasp. Yet towards the end he requested chaplains and sought prayer.

On our last day on the coast B and I visited the hospital with all the children. After a time, Dad suggested they go outside; I could stay and assist him with his meal.

Dad struggled to speak. He said he had talked to my brothers and my mother and I was the last. He said he wanted to be "on a straight track" with everyone and asked my forgiveness for any harm he had ever done me. He was so sorry, so sad about the past. He blamed himself for things I had long forgotten. I was not an easy child, and our hot-headed personalities had often clashed. We talked, and I reassured him as best as I could that everything was all right. Crying silently, I told him how much I loved him. Three or four days later Dad became confused and distressed. On January 21 he died.

I learnt more in those minutes about love and grace, compassion, repentance and forgiveness than in a lifetime of sermons, lectures and books.

So many people die suddenly; so many people die hugging grievances. My father, visibly struggling to channel his thoughts and knowing I was returning home to Melbourne, that this was the last time, gave me, and indeed, all of us, the gift of peace



9 comments:

joolzmac said...

Beautiful. Peace to you this Christmas,

Joolz

Tracy said...

What beautiful memories to treasure, Kate. Blessings on your and your family as you celebrate Christmas together and mark the anniversary of your father's passing.

How is Will doing? I hope he is improving steadily.

rebecca's rainbow kisses said...

My dear blogging friend,
This post is beautiful. I am so glad you had that precious time with your Dad before he passed. What a gift he gave you and your family.
Blessings to you and yours in the New Year.
~ rebecca

Jenny said...

xxx

MaryLu said...

My brother died suddenly and tragically in a self-inflicted weapon accident several years ago. My father died on my birthday 12 years ago. I neve really had the chance to tell them how much they meant to me. I pray that others will read your blog and know the importance of telling those that are dear to them, how much they are loved.
Life is precious and fleeting.

Mikki said...

What a beautiful post Kate. My thoughts are with you this season as you remember your father. He sounds like a wonderful man. I'm so glad he had the chance to ask/and you got to offer forgiveness before he passed. I'm sure he is looking down on you now and smiling.
I hope you have a wonderful New Year!!
luv,
Mikki

Sweet Cottage Dreams said...

kate, reading this made me think of so many things. for one, i am very happy for you that your father made peace before his death - not only with you, but with our God. i am glad you got to spend time with him before his death - this is so important on so many levels. i didn't have this chance with my son or my mother and i have angst about this, but i know they are with God now. this brings me peace, as i know it must with you.

wishing you a lovely new year and remember all of the times with your father that brought you joy. we will all be together again someday.

much love,
beckyu

ANNEMARIE said...

Oh Kate, your words have brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful that you were able to spend those last few days with your dear Dad. I had the same opportunity with my Mum and will always be grateful for that. Our departed love ones are never far away from us, just a heartbeat. I hope you and your loved ones have a healthy and happy New Year.

Kimmie said...

I am glad your father was able to have this time with you. I am sorry you had to see him so frail. How good is God that He gave him time to come to this place of peace with God and man.

sending a hug and a new year's Kiss.

xoxo
Kimmie
mama to 8
one homemade and 7 adopted