"So good, I'm dangerous"

These were my dad's last words on 16 February, 2024, the day he died. He'd been laying in bed unresponsive for almost 24 hours by this time. We had all gathered around him, myself, mum, my husband, his grandchildren and even great grandchildren. Wandering in and out, sharing memories, talking to him, laughing and holding back tears as we knew the end was finally coming after a long illness.

At this point I was kneeling on the bed and trying to straighten Dad up a little when he opened his eyes and looked at me. I asked 'Are you okay Dad, are you good?"

"So good I'm dangerous" he said with a twinkle in his eye, then he fell back to sleep.

Only a few hours later surrounded by people who loved him, both in the room and via FaceTime, he took his final breaths and left us. I'd had the privilege of he and mum moving into my home 9 months prior so that I could help them navigate what we thought would be his final weeks.

Instead of only weeks, Dad lived long enough to celebrate he and mum's 60th Wedding Anniversary, Christmas with all the grandchildren and great grandchildren, and then Mum's birthday only 2 days before he died.

He was 79, and had been in love with my mum since he was 17. They married when they were just 16 and 18 and I was born when they were 17 and 19. They had two children and Dad went to war in Vietnam when I was 6 years old. He suffered serious mental health battles and finally overcame them in his 70's. He and Mum have amazing, connected and loving relationships with all of their grandchildren, most of whom described him as tough but funny. It has been interesting to get to know more of who he was as a man through other people's eyes over these months. In many ways it adds to my sense of loss.

This photo of him at only 37, holding my 6 week old daughter, is how I best remember him.

For various reasons he had no funeral but we gathered a few weeks later to spread his ashes. I held the remnants of his body in my hands and felt the greatest loss. It comes in waves now as I think about so much of the hardship of his life as he battled mental illness and how that illness caused an abyss between us for so very long. The grief is also for how wonderfully healing and loving those last months were as my Dad gave me many healing words and reassured me.. convinced me.. of his love for me.

It was an honour to care for him. I still wonder if I did enough. Today Mum was sorting some of his clothing and as I held a shirt, I thought about how this is a shirt a person was wearing. A person. A person whose body isn't even in this world anymore and I can't comprehend it. What is left when the person leaves but the rest of us... to remember them and to live on with a renewed sense of what is important. That's certainly the case for me.

While acknowledging I am still in a time of grieving, I also believe my priorities have shifted hugely over these months. When all is said and done, you take nothing with you when you die. You leave memories. You leave people. The only thing that matters anymore are those people and how you impacted or influenced them. How you loved them and how they loved you.

We can only ever hope it is enough.