Last Monday, I said goodbye to my father who died of liver cancer. It was a really hard time for all of us and I miss him dearly.
He was a larger than life character, very funny, very generous and people loved him. I was quite taken aback by all the people that turned up at his funeral last Wednesday and at how upset they were.
Dad and I were very close when I was younger. I went everywhere with him – on deliveries, grocery shopping, dentist and doctors appointments, even shooting and fishing. He would love spending time with his family and we were showered with love and affection.
But in my late teens, I hurt him deeply when I told him about my boyfriend of 2 years. I hadn't told him earlier because I knew he wouldn't approve due to the culture difference, but I didn't want to lie to him anymore. He kissed me on the forehead as if to say goodbye and that was the end of our relationship as we knew it. He stopped speaking to me as in his eyes, I had disrespected him beyond forgiveness for keeping my relationship a secret and despite my attempts to talk to him, we lived like strangers under the same roof. It was unbearable, I started to go off the rails as I already had depression and I eventually moved out.
He started speaking to me again after a few years but didn't want anything to do with my boyfriend who later became my husband. So I would visit and even stay for a few days but things were never the same between us. Though we would laugh and joke about things, and greet each other with a kiss, there were no hugs and he couldn't forget the fact that I had hidden something from him and thought that I had been laughing behind his back.
But through his sickness, I saw him change. He started to want to talk about the past, express how he felt and I listened. He told me how hurt he was at how I'd lied and laughed at him. And I said, "Daddy, how can you think I was laughing at you? The reason I didn't tell you was because I didn't want to lose you. I knew that as soon as I told you about Michael, that would be it. So I kept both of you as long as I could." "But you lost me anyway," he said. "Yes, but I should have been able to keep both of you," I replied.
And finally after almost 20 years, on a visit to the UK for medical reasons, out of the blue, he announced that I could also bring my husband to my sister's house. It was like a dream seeing them meet for the first time. I was quite shocked when Michael went straight up to him and gave him a big bear hug and planted a kiss on his cheek. They got on like a house on fire and dad turned to me and said, "Michael's alright isn't he? He seems like a really nice person." "Yes dad, that's what I've been trying to tell you," I replied. That was a big deal coming from my dad because he was a very good judge of character and could suss someone out in the first 5 minutes of meeting them.
During the last few days of his life, I stroked his head, held his hand, massaged his feet, gave him lots of kisses, slept with my head touching his, nuzzled into his neck (he always smelt nice) and told him I loved him numerous times - and then he was gone...
But why am I sharing something so personal with you? It took a sickness to bring my father and I together to talk about everything. When faced with death or faced with the prospect of losing someone, people start thinking about their life and things that seemed really important can then seem really insignificant. So they try to put things right, they make amends with people, say the things they never had the courage to say, and express their love to people.
I suppose this is the only good that comes out of being ill. But many people don't have the chance of putting things right. Death comes without warning - an accident, a heart attack... And all that remains for those left behind is guilt, depression, regrets and unspoken words.
Don't wait to tell someone you love them. Tell them how you feel and show them how much you care.
Don’t stay angry when someone close lets you down. We all make mistakes. Is it really worth losing someone you love over that?
Kids, respect your parents and don’t lie to them or keep things from them as this could hurt them to the core.
And if it’s too late, if the person has already left this world, don’t beat yourself up anymore. See it as a life lesson that has taught you what to do if a similar situation arises in the future.
I choose to remember the good times I had with my dad and there were so many. J