This post is long overdue. In fact all my blog posts are. I’ve fallen right off the wagon and rolled down the hill when it comes to my regular blogging schedule. For the past 9 years I’ve blogged every week day. Until lockdown. When you would have expected me to have MORE time to spend on my blog, the reality is that I just stopped. Yup. I stopped blogging for a few days, that turned into weeks and then months.
The truth is I’ve enjoyed the break. It’s been necessary for my own head space to take time out. A sabbatical of sorts. My head space has been struggling. Along with many people around the world I’ve found the change and stress of Coronavirus and Lockdown really hard. I’m not someone who has struggled with mental health issues ever, until now. And although I’ve not had an official diagnosis or need to be hospitalised. I have had a glimmer of what people with anxiety and depression deal with and it’s really tough.
Life lately has been hard, actually it’s been harder than hard. The hardest. The past few months have been challenging and trying, tiring and confusing and then to top it all off the past two weeks have been the most stressful of my life.
A week ago my dad died.
He had been admitted to hospital a few times during lockdown for other health issues. On the Monday after Father’s Day he was admitted, then discharged on the Thursday and then back in the following Monday. I helped my mom to take him to hospital that morning as he was unstable on this feet and needed assistance down stairs and a wheelchair on arrival. When I said goodbye in the parking lot of the hospital we all thought he would be home in a few hours after a follow up appointment with a doctor to assess his test results and suggest a new treatment plan.
Unfortunately the day didn’t pan out as it was meant to. As a patient of the Government Health Care System he slipped through the cracks and spent the whole day being shunted around the hospital (not the best place to be in a pandemic). My mom sat with him in Casualty for hours while he deteriorated. When he was finally seen he had to be admitted again. He was in hospital without any contact with us for another 10 days.
Three days into this hospital stay I got the phone call no one wants to receive. My dad had developed a temperature and they were running tests – one of which would be for Covid-19. The next day I took another devastating phone call. He was positive for Covid-19. In that moment I collapsed on my bathroom floor. I knew. From the start of the Coronavirus pandemic I was realistic about the impact it would have on my dad’s health. He was frail and elderly, with a history of cancer and a slew of other health ailments that were not easy to treat. I made the call to my brother and sister and then had to walk through to break the news to my mom (I’d moved her in with me due to her own health concerns and super high anxiety levels)
The next six days I held my breath. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I was barely able to function. Once a day we would hear from the hospital. Every phone call made my heart race and I eventually made my husband keep my phone, or flung it at him every time it rang.
The saddest part of this all is that my dad was alone. For those six days we weren’t able to visit or even talk to him. His (seriously old) phone died after the first day and we hadn’t been prepared for admitting him so he didn’t have a charger. To be honest I don’t think he was in any state to arrange his own charger and with the wards so full and nursing staff so hectic I don’t think they could have helped. Every time we got feedback we were told he was confused. My hope is that he wasn’t aware of what was happening around him and to him. I can only believe that he was held in God’s embrace during that time and felt His peace.
After a few days of what seemed like hopeful progress in his battle against Covid-19 (he had only needed minimal oxygen and was even take off the oxygen the day before he died) we finally got the call no one wants to answer.
By some divine intervention I was actually cocooned up in my bed for a nap, having asked my husband to even tuck me as I just wanted “to feel safe”. He took the call while I was half asleep and I’m so grateful for that, as I was spared the panic.
It wasn’t what we wanted. A heart attack caused by a blood clot caused by Covid-19.
In the days since I’ve been processing a slew of emotions, many unexpected. I had wrongly anticipated that I had prepared my heart in advance for this loss over the past few years but nothing can prepare you for the loss of a father – whether expected or unexpected, a close relationship or a more distant one. A father represents security, stability, reliability and provision. Your first experience of unconditional love from a male figure. I didn’t always appreciate how much he loved me and how much I loved him in return. We weren’t a family of great displays of affection or gestures of love but in these past few days I’ve been far more aware of my dad’s unique character and role in my life. Due to circumstances beyond both of our control our relationship often felt distant but I’ve come to realise I was far from short-changed. He was a product of his own English upbringing and his parenting was the best he knew how – even better in fact! I will miss his gentle, kind and caring ways, his willingness to serve and help practically, his dry humour and broad knowledge of so many things – words, waves and the world.
Right now I’m riding my own wave. Some days I’m able to get up and carry on, share a laugh and enjoy the sunshine. Others I stay in my pyjamas and struggle to do anything productive. I’ve been carried with much love and support from friends through deliveries of meals and flowers and messages. My family were able to hold a very meaningful and intimate memorial this weekend and it was special to celebrate his life together. The whole experience is surreal and painful, yet I feel peaceful too. I’m filled with a peace that passes understanding. One from above.
God has been close to me throughout this journey. Preparing my heart a few months before, confirming His plans are higher than mine and surrounding me with his supernatural peace.
While preparing a few words to say at the memorial I was reminded of something my dad would say often when we would be saying goodbye. It is from Numbers in the Bible and is known as the Aaronic blessing. My sister also shared these words at the memorial (neither of us knew about the other sharing the same verse – an “ironic” blessing indeed!)
The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24–26, NIV)
“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.”
When I reread the words I realised that they are the words of a very popular song that came out just as Lockdown life began, The Blessing. It was a song that I held on to many times during the weeks of Lockdown and beyond as it really resonated with me. I played it loudly, I played it quietly, I song along, I meditated to it. The line that really hit me in the feels each time was:
“May His favor be upon you
And a thousand generations
Your family and your children
And their children, and their children”
At the time I thought it was because of Lockdown that this song was so relevant to me. Now I know better! This song will forever have even greater meaning to me now that I have made the connection to my dad.
For now I’m doing ok, one day at a time. I am holding on to the good memories, processing the sadness, allowing the tears, enjoying the photos (take more photos of your parents!), missing his voice.
I’ll be back eventually. It just might take a while. Thank you for your understanding. Don’t give up on me yet!