Life will never be the same

Last updated 05:00 18/01/2013

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I took the phone call after a night on the turps. It was Mum, living in Blackpool.

"I have some bad news", she said, "your dad is dead".

Before I sunk to the floor, I said "No". There were tears. I cried like I've never cried before into the small hours.

His death hit me hard. Harder than I expected, than I knew. I didn't think he would die. I had only talked to him a week or so before and he sounded in fine form.

Losing him meant losing my best friend. He was my mentor and best critic. He was always there for me when things turned to s***, when they turned to s*** regularly, and to put the brakes on "harebrained schemes".

He died of a massive heart attack whilst walking to the doctors. Ambulance staff said he was "dead before he hit the pavement". I wonder about the passersby. Did they attempt to revive him? So many unanswered questions.

It means a lot to me and Mum knowing he didn't suffer. His was an instant death, without any drawn out suffering. But when death comes we all die instantly, when you think about it.

Nobody knew he wasn't feeling himself. For days prior he had been feeling a "bit unwell" with flu-like symptoms. Being a staunch old guy he'd put off going to the "quack".

I think the cigarettes, whiskey, lack of exercise, and his habit of dipping bread covered in butter into hot bacon fat from the grill caught up with him. But at 73 he had really lived. I know that.

After the phone call, I went into different world. I couldn't function. I couldn't think. Speaking was too much effort. My girlfriend took control, organised the flight home for compassionate reasons the next day. Numb from grief and fatigue I was seated next to a talkative women in cattle-class.

The last time I saw my dad he was laid out in his coffin in the funeral parlour. It didn't look like him. I grasped at that moment the meaning of the soul. Whatever it is which makes us human, which made him my loving father, his essence, the spark of life, it was gone. I was looking at a stranger. Where there was once humour, now his face was stern. Everything about it seemed different, yet I knew it was him. The skin around his jaw was sagging, his features were heavier.

The funeral was terrible. We stood when the vicar turned his favourite music on. To this day I can never listen to the "long and winding road" without crying.

His coffin slowly went into the flames. Mum was crying inconsolably and staggered, "I can't go on without him".

We tried to console her. She seemed so vulnerable at that moment. We all were. My Auntie put her arms around her, "Yes you can, you can", she said.

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Then it was time for the drive home. Life would never be the same, but it went on. As we were departing, another funeral party was arriving.

Now I think of Mum, on her own. At 73 she has heart problems. Angina. She hasn't told me, but I've seen the pills. It's our little game. I know she has it, she knows I know she has it, but we don't discuss it. I've seen how she gets out of breath walking to the green grocers. I've brought it up, but she brushes it off. "I'm fine".

I'm waiting for another call. When the phone rings late at night, or early in the morning, those are the worst.

I don't know how I'll respond when it comes. I don't want her to die. I don't want to think about it. But I do. We've talked about her funeral. She wants to be cremated in a cardboard box. "I don't want any fuss at my funeral".

I'll spread her ashes on St-Annes' beach where we built sandcastles when I was a kid, and drank lemonade before tea time.

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