Monday 19 December 2016

The year I lost my Dad.

It's been far to quite on my blog lately and I want to explain where I've been.

Sadly I have had to deal with one of the hardest times of my life and only now do I feel strong enough to write about my experiences.
I loved my blog, sharing what I've been doing and sharing my passion for photography but after recent events I have lost all interest.

On the 7th of September 2016 my Dad passed away.

He wasn't sick or at least we didn't know he was sick due to being a stubborn very British gentleman who just wouldn't go to the doctor willy nilly.

I myself am in the doctors nearly weekly! I've had more antibiotics in the last three months then I think I've had in the last 5 years and since being diagnosed with Asthma in my adult life have even more reasons to visit.I certainly do not take after my Dad on this respect.

The 7th of September was a Wednesday, not just any Wednesday but it was my younger brothers 28th birthday. It was also the first day of my Mum and Dads holiday together on the Norfolk broads. Everything was perfect! The sun was shining and I had finished work and was on the way to meet my brother at the beach for surf but I kept getting missed calls from him. I was driving from work to the beach, so pulled over and called him back. He kept banging on about meeting as his first. Did he not understand the tide was not only on it's way in but the swell was also dropping so we needed to go straight to the water!!!

He insisted that I came to his and I insisted that I didn't and realising something was wrong kept on pressing him until it was blurted out.
I still can't get the words out of my head now. "Dad's had a heart attack" My instant thought was, OK, not too bad people recover from heart attacks all the time and that hopefully that'll be a wake up call to him to do more exercise and perhaps loose a bit of weight. Whilst off in my own thoughts thinking of all the ways this could be beneficial to my Dads health the words slapped me around the face. Dad's dead!!!!!

Now words like that aren't easy to digest, I sat in my car for a few minutes in complete shock and then started shaking. What on earth was I hearing? surely this can't have happened? As I processed what I had heard I started to ring my boyfriend.

Why do blokes NEVER answer the phone. I was literally screaming at my phone at this stage willing him to answer and getting so angry and why on earth was he at work and working and not picking up his phone. Eventually after what felt like ages he answered and I just screamed at him that my Dad was dead. I just kept shouting at him over and over.

After a moment of being calmed down and him offering to come and meet me and realising this was going to be at least an hours drive we decided to both head to my brothers and in a trance I drove to meet my brother.

Arriving at my brothers we had an odd hug, it was kinda sad but equally things hadn't really sunk in and after all, it was still my brothers birthday. His cards and gifts were freshly opened and a cake and candles were on the side. He began to explain what had happened.

Mum and Dad own a boat and they keep it moored up in Norfolk. Just like me and my partner and our love for our camper van my parents loved weekends away on their boat and this week they had planned a full week on the boat together.They had arrived in Norfolk the night before and enjoyed a drink at the pub and some dinner together. The following morning they were ready for their weeks adventure. They did a food shop, a drinks shop, they went to the newsagents and Dad even put a bet on the horses at the local bookmakers.

They returned to the boat with all their supplies for the week and had their breakfast ready to start their journey up the river. But this was sadly never to happen.
My Dad sat down on the back of the boat and just went. Just like that gone. One minute he was their with Mum planning their trip together and the next nothing.
Mum desperately tried to help him, she called an ambulance who talked her through CPR and they tried to find where she was which is very difficult when being moored up on the side of the river as the ambulance crew needed a road name but she wasn't on a road but on a river! They eventually arrived and took over but it was too late.
They took dad to the hospital in Norwich and took Mum to the Police station in Wroxham. This would be the very first day of them being apart.

My sister was called who lives in Essex and her and her partner drove to pick up my mum in Norfolk and bring her home.
It's utterly heartbreaking to think that one minute your about to start a weeks holiday with the man you have spent years of your life with and the next you are heading home alone.

Meanwhile with my sister and her partner bringing my Mum home me and my brother were joined by our partners and we decided that as it was still my brothers birthday we should all go in the sea together. I'm not sure this is what your meant to do when you are grieving and in shock but it seemed like an idea and we didn't know what to do.
We all went in the sea and for anyone that knows me my partner he DOES NOT go in the sea. We all went in the water together at the beach where we'd last seen my dad on holiday a month previously and watched the sunset, which for a short while took the pain away and things didn't feel real.

We then got what anyone else would do in this situation and we bought booze! We headed back to my brothers and sat and drank and talked and tried to understand what on earth we do next.
Me and my Brother are in Cornwall, my Mother and Sister are in Essex.

We couldn't drive that evening as had all had a drink plus after the shock of that news wouldn't have been the best idea to drive 6 hours in that state.
Me and my partner headed home in a daze and went to bed. I didn't sleep and it got back out of bed about 5am, before I woke my partner saying we needed to go to Essex right now.

The strange thing is myself and my partner also had a weeks camping holiday booked on the Friday and already had the van partially loaded for a weeks camping so we threw in a few clothes and went back to my brothers to pick up my car and see how they were doing. Silly question really, how does anyone do after their dad has just died unexpectedly!

My brother agreed we all needed to get back to be together as a family and were going to sort out a few things themselves at home and were then also getting on the road. We left separately and arrived in Essex in the early afternoon where we found my Mum and Sister drinking tea in the garden. There were lots of tears and lots of questions but the words just weren't there.

As the days went on things started to fall into place but it was hard. Things seemed so complicated. Dad was still up at the hospital in Norfolk and needed a postmortem and until that was done we couldn't register the death and until that was done couldn't plan the funeral. As if dealing with grief isn't hard enough none of us had done this before and none of it was straight forward.

We found a funeral home on the Internet and booked an appointment and as a family we all went along to go through the process together. It was horrible and hard but it was also quite easy in the sense that Dad had always said he wanted the Hythm 'For those in peril of the sea' played at his funeral and as a huge West Ham fan 'Bubbles' also needed to feature. The readings were chosen, the coffin even needed choosing but to be honest none of this was going to bring him back or heal the pain it was only making it all more real.

Once we had a few things in place all we had to do was wait for the postmortem to move things along. My Brother and his Fiance and my partner all returned to Cornwall and my Sister returned to her own home and I was left with Mum. It was so hard being back at the family home seeing all of Dads things and him not being there. It felt like he had just popped out and would be back at some point.

We finally got the news from the coroner that Dads death was caused by a heart attack and this had been caused by heart disease. This made things real. This meant that his body could be moved back to Essex that the funeral home could embalm him and the funeral could proceed. There's a part of me that could handle the in between stage, me and Mum taking each day at a time, drinking lots of tea and taking one day at a time but this made everything real and I had to deal with emotions once again.
When dad's body was ready Mum wanted to say a proper and personal goodbye. I walked down with her and it was such a heart wrenching moment seeing someone in so much pain. I can hold her hand, I can hug her but I can't bring Dad back. The lady asked If I wanted to say goodbye to Dad but I didn't want to.
I didn't want to see him in any other way than how I was used to seeing him. I wanted to remember him as my Dad and not lying in a coffin.

The days continued to pass and we waited for my Brother and Fiance and my Partner to return from Cornwall for the funeral. I had missed my fella more than anything and I needed him to hold me but then I felt for my mum, she had just lost the person that would hold her through hard times. Every emotion was questioned. Every thought was questioned, was it normal, was it acceptable to feel certain things.

With my Brother and my Partner back it was time for us to visit my Dad in the funeral home and say goodbye. This was the worst experience so far. I couldn't look at him, I glimpsed through the corner of my eye and it wasn't Dad. Well it was but it just didn't feel right. My big tall Dad lying their, pale, lifeless, his colour was wrong, his nose looked different everything was just horrible. I couldn't do this! My partner held me so tightly and we chatted together about my dad, we lit a candle and I had to leave without really looking at him properly. I want to remember my dad in my memories and within photographs and not like this.
After this experience, me and my partner went to a Danbury lakes for a walk. Somewhere we used to go as children. I don't think it helped, I was unable to remove the image of my Dad in a coffin out of my head.

We eventually returned home and had another day before the funeral. The day before we took photographs down to the venue for the wake and did a last few jobs and waiting for the following day to come.

The day of the funeral arrived and I had been dreading it. How could you not dread going to the funeral of your own Dad! It was incredibly hard and it felt like I was there for someone Else's funeral. It was awfully sad but I also felt like I was in a bubble that I just wanted to be brave and strong for my Mum and didn't want to let the day in.

Once the funeral was over and drinks were had at the football club the time arrived to head back home to my Mums. It just felt so bizarre. We were at home, all dressed in black, with the coffin flowers and left over buffet food on the table.
What happens next?

The evening was surreal and after several nights of not sleeping we all went to bed slightly early.
The following morning we all got up early and went to the local Park Run in Chelmsford. Me and my brother ran together I even managed to get a PB and I believe I did this for my dad.

Since the sad news broke I had spent a month living with my mum but the time had come and I had to return back to Cornwall. This was hard yet again to drive away and leave my mum totally alone 300 miles away from me.
I know things will get easier in time and life goes on but right now life has got hard and I feel for many of our family, life is on hold and life will certainly not be the same for my Mother for a while to come.

The wonders of technology mean that I can video call my Mum regularly and we can be face to face but it's not the same as really being together. This Christmas, will be the hardest Christmas as it is going to be the first one without Dad and there is a huge chunk missing from all our lives but I'm grateful that we can all be together and be strong for each other and together we will help each other through. There will be some days that are harder and days that are easier but dealing with grief is easier when your family is around you and you can be strong for each other when your not feeling so strong.

To my Dad
John Brooks