“I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.”― Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold as Love
It has to happen. I know it does. I know that no matter what I do, what I say or how I wish it wouldn’t, it’s going to happen. It hurts when I think about it, so I try not to. Tears well in my eyes when I remember my childhood and how happy I was, so I don’t. My stomach clenches, and my heart aches when I think about leaving him, so I selfishly hope that I never have to visit, but I do, every time, because he’s my father and he’s dying.
My Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2021 and given six months to live. He just made it to his 74th birthday on May the 14th, 2022 and lived long enough to see my cousin married in the same manor house that my sister was wed nearly ten years ago, but he doesn’t have long now. He almost died last weekend. He was days away from it, but my sister (who has a doctorate in nursing) recognised the signs of an untreated UTI and got him the antibiotics that saved his life. Still, it’s postponing the inevitable.
He can barely walk; he’s extremely confused and is (thankfully) sleeping most of the time. He has his lucid moments, and the smile of wonder when he sees us lets me know that he’s still in there. Throughout it all, he’s kept his sense of humour and jokes with us in wonderfully inappropriate ways. If he’s scared, he’s never let it show.
But no matter what, he’s going to go soon.
I genuinely don’t know if he is scared. He’s never been one to shy away from death. He’s been a lifelong atheist and has dedicated his living years to teaching science to anyone that would listen (and quite a few who wouldn’t as well). He has travelled the world and taught with the red cross. He’s climbed Kilimanjaro and seen the icebergs of Canada. He’s done so much and changed the lives of so many because he understood that your life is for living. It’s not for wallowing in pity; it’s not for complaining and waiting for someone else to fix your problems; it’s for you to live. Only you can change your direction because death will come for us all, and we can not predict when that will be.
His greatest fear was to lose his mind, but now that it’s happening, he’s accepting it. He can’t change it, so he’s doing what he can, which is facing it. He’s looking at it head-on and joking, laughing until the end because he’s lived his life.
He’s my father, and he’s my hero.
I’m going to miss him when he goes, but I’m going to learn from his example too. He’s never been physically strong, but he’s always been brave. He’s never been afraid to break a norm or challenge an idea. He’s never been afraid to take a risk and explore the unknown, living his life to the fullest and doing it the way he wants.
I can’t save him from his fate, but I can stand by him, and I can honour his legacy. I can embrace the lessons he’s set out for me and follow the path that he’s shown. I can be as brave as he is and live my life the way I choose, with pride and integrity.
What we do is our choice and what we say is our way of affecting the world.
I lived most of my life trying to make others proud. It wasn’t until I hit my 30’s that I realised my mistake and started to walk my own path.
That was when I truly understood what my Dad had silently been showing me for years. Until you’re proud of yourself, no one else will ever validate you enough to sate that feeling of inadequacy. Until you can stand tall and assert who you are to the world, the world will ignore you and pass on by.
Until you believe that you’re someone, you will always be invisible.
Life’s there to be lived, so go out and embrace it. Death comes for us all in the end, so why not go out sideways and smiling?
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