We lost Dad seven years ago today. He passed in the morning of September 26, 2012, after an all-night vigil and was surrounded by those who loved him most.
I received a phone call the previous afternoon from his girlfriend. “He said he couldn’t do it anymore and told me to tell you he loves you and your sister very much,” she told me in French. “Il m’a dit – j’suis peu capable.”
He was no longer able – he couldn’t keep fighting. Here we go, I thought. The day we had dreaded for six months had arrived.
My husband, sister and I made the three hour trip as soon as we could – my brother-in-law stayed back to find care for the kids before following a few hours later.
A Long Night
He lay quietly in his hospital bed, covered with his Victoria’s Quilt. A friend had submitted a request for a quilt on Dad’s behalf, and it brought him comfort to the very end.
It was a long night. We took turns by his bed, holding his hand and talking to him. We let him know how proud of him we were. For fighting the cancer as hard as he did, for living life as fully as he could these last months with family and friends, and – most importantly – for being the best Dad he could be to my sister and I.
He had been diagnosed a short six months earlier – stage four cancer that had spread to his bones. Any treatment would be palliative and not a cure.
After receiving the news, I asked him if he was afraid. “Just of the chemo,” he said. I reminded him that his treatment path was his choice. Luckily, his doctor was of the same mind and agreed with Dad’s decision to forgo treatment.
Growing up, I can’t say that I ever considered my Dad to be a courageous person. He was adventurous, an outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing. Later in life he most enjoyed simply being outside in the natural world. The city made him anxious – he was happiest when he was outside away from the people and the busy-ness.
In his last six months of life, he toured the Toronto area before heading both to the East and West Coasts of Canada to visit with old friends and to say goodbye.
An Example of Courage
After a dear friend (and palliative doctor) confirmed for Dad that he had weeks, not months, left, my Dad showed me what courage is.
He picked up his address book and called his friends. He told them he had two weeks to live, and invited them to come for a visit. So many of them did! It was heart breaking to hear him make those calls and even harder to watch their goodbyes, knowing it was the last time.
He died two weeks later. I’ll never know if it was his body that gave out just as his friend predicted, or if it was Dad’s heart and spirit believing so deeply in his friend’s words that he willed it.
I will never forget the courage, strength and love he showed those last weeks. I still miss him every day.