Even though we knew it was coming, the death of my Dad has been difficult to deal with. It can be hard enough to understand and cope with your own feelings of grief and loss and having to explain it to a pre-schooler can be tough.
My Dad was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 pancreatic cancer in February of last year. It was a massive blow to our family and meant that his retirement was one of doctor’s visits and chemotherapy rather than travel and enjoying himself. His diagnosis was one of the significant factors that lead to the launch of Story Mama, as by working for myself I had the flexibility to be able to help my Mum out by taking him to chemo. It also meant that I was able to easily visit him in hospital, or catch up for a coffee or lunch when he was feeling well.
This blog is not the forum for his eulogy, but know that he was an enormous influence on my life and that with his passing I am determined to make him proud and live my life to the fullest and to remember him often and with love.
My little man has been around Dad’s illness almost until the end. We were mindful though to only take him to the hospital if he was happy to come. He painted pictures for Dad’s hospital room and enjoyed playing with the hospital's toys. We talked to him about the tummy bug that the doctors were having trouble fixing. We made the decision to stop taking him to see Dad when the situation got really grim.
It was with a massive lump in my throat and tears in our eyes that my husband and I sat our little man down to explain to him what it meant when someone had died. We attempted to do what the Grief Counsellors suggest, using age appropriate words and not give him too much information. We were ready to answer any questions he might have.
I think my little speech went something like this. “We have something we need to tell you. Grandy died today. That means that Mummy and Daddy and Nanna are very sad because we can’t go to see him anymore. When you die that means that your body doesn’t work anymore and we can’t see or talk to you anymore. The important bit to know is that you are safe and well, and Mummy and Daddy and Nanna are all fine as well.” Our little man looked at us for a moment, seemed to take it all in, and then asked “Where are the chips?” (His father and he had bought some on the way to my Mum’s). Hmmm, not quite how I was expecting that to go, but let’s roll with it and go and find some potato chips. We have had some questions since, and I suspect there will be more to come.
I had been on the lookout for the perfect picture book to be reading him when Dad passed, and I had some pretty tough criteria. It needed to just touch on the theme of death and not be too depressing. I needed to be able to read it aloud without crying. I wanted it to be beautiful and to have it become a keepsake to remember my Dad. I liked Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks "Old Pig", because it did all these things, but also dealt with the idea of someone knowing death is approaching, very gently and with class.
So we will read this one at night for a little while, and then put it on the shelf to pull back out when we want to be reminded of Dad. We will talk about him often, and look at pictures and videos of him and our little man playing and laughing together. We were very lucky to have him even though it wasn’t for long enough, and I hope my little man always remembers his Grandy.