Seeing as everything’s a bit more settled, I thought it right to write about why I’m taking a break.
While on honeymoon in Jamaica, with five days of sun and cocktails left to come, right after swimming with dolphins and climbing waterfalls, my mum called from back home. I thought she was panicking, seeing my tweets about having to call the resort’s doctor after I developed an ear infection and checking I was ok. But it was worse. The worst possible news to hear.
My dad had died. He’d had an accident, and died.
I was a ten hour flight away. Mum was with my sister and family, who dropped everything to travel as far Bournemouth to get to the hospital. But he was gone.
Dad was 51, and was in good health – the day before he’d been at a family party playing musical chairs, skipping games, cards… just having fun and laughing with his family. A day later, he was at work and collapsed. The paramedics were called and seeing as he was so young they tried for an hour to keep him alive, but it wasn’t going to work.
Mum explained to me how he was in the hospital now. And that I could see him, but I just needed to get home.
As soon as I heard, I remember screaming. I remember that everyone who had been out on their balconies enjoying the gorgeous sunset soon went indoors. I ached, for dad, for mum, for my sister. I wanted to be home. The brain has this crazy way of coping though. I actually convinced myself it wasn’t true. I believed it was a joke.
Our Virgin rep was uncontactable on her emergency number – meaning we couldn’t do anything from where we were. Our travel insurance emergency assistance suggested we find any flight and book it, as for them to arrange flights back home would take a few days. The soonest flight from Jamaica home was two days away, and I knew if I had to move heaven and earth and spend £20,000 for First Class flights, I wasn’t waiting two days to get back home.
David packed our bags immediately and managed to find a Delta flight the next morning to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Heathrow, where my brother-in-law and cousin met us to take us home. It was the first, and only time I’ll ever fly First Class, and for that I have dad (and an exceptionally understanding Virgin Atlantic cabin crew) to thank.
Now, nothing seems worth it any more. All my life I’ve wanted to travel, to get away from it all. I can’t think of anything worse. Plans to move abroad are permanently done with. Long haul travel will take a while to get back in to – I never want to be so far away from home, knowing what could happen.
It’s two weeks today since he passed away – it feels like a lifetime and a day ago at the same time – and we’ve had over 200 cards sent through, visitors on a daily basis, meals cooked by friends since it happened, money given to us to help with the funeral plans. He was loved, so much. Not just by mum and me, but by people we never thought even really cared. People we haven’t seen in twenty years. People who have stories to tell, stories I’ve never heard before.
Dad had the world on his shoulders and would have done anything to ensure his family’s happiness. I know if it was a choice between him and any of us, it would always be him. And that’s how I look at him. He was a man of principle, a man who’d cried at the terrible decisions I’d made in life, a man who’d dropped everything to make sure I was ok and there when I needed him after those terrible decision predictably backfired. A man who would be a pillar of support for me, mum, my sister. A man who was a laugh, who loved a practical joke, who was highly-strung, but who cared about everyone he met.
He was fair. So fair. Where I would judge people for their actions, he would sit back and find the good in them. He would have been an accountant if granddad had his way. Instead, he became a window cleaner to ensure he could put first what truly mattered to him; people.
He is man I am privileged to be able to call my father.
My childhood was the best time of my life, full of days out and homecooked meals (his steak and redcurrant sauce was the stuff of legends). He would take six weeks off work every summer and we’d go on a road trip to Sicily. For six weeks. He loved his family, was a proud husband and a proud father. He taught me how to be brave and adventurous. Where mum was weak, he was strong, and where mum was strong, he was weak. He was stubborn, but passionate about what he believed in.
He was one of nine children, and based on the memories they all have of dad, he was a great brother. If a little annoying – hey, he was 8 out of 9!
His funeral is next Monday. We expect, based on everyone who’s sent their condolences, there will be about three hundred people there. How we’ll get through that day I’ll never know. I didn’t expect to be arranging a funeral at 29. Mum and my sister aren’t the most financially-minded, so I’ve taken the reins and ensured mum’s life insurance and mortgage is taken care of. I’ll make sure everything is sorted for her, so she and my sister can concentrate on eating, and getting the house taken care of.
Work has been amazing. My boss, and my team, have made everything so much easier. I’m not ready to go back yet – I feel like I’m on the verge of a massive panic attack every morning and my chest aches with stress – but next week I’ll start working from home while finishing the last few funeral/finanical plans.
As for how dad died, we had to rely on a coroner to find out. It wasn’t his heart, or his head. It was his liver. Non alcoholic liver disease that no one was even aware of, and a bit of hypertension. He died suddenly, in no pain. Just one of those things. All of us now need to be checked to ensure we don’t have the same. Genetics, eh?
Now, life changes for us all. No longer is he sat on the sofa chuckling along at Friends. We’ll never hear his unique laugh. Or take the mick over his odd pronunciation of the words penguin and mountain. His phone won’t ring again, and his work now ends. He can rest, sleeping. It’s us who need to live on, making him proud in our daily lives.
Oh dad. You’ve left a huge hole in our lives. Your brothers miss you and love you. Your Italian family loves you too. Mum cries for you every day, you were her soulmate. You have no idea how many people have been in touch (you’d be so surprised at who we’ve heard from!), how many flowers have been sent. How the workers at your last project are calling it your Legacy. How they’ve raised £500 between them to take care of mum. We’ll be fine. We’ll manage. But life will be duller now you’re gone. You were the pulse of our family, its heartbeat. There’s no one in the world like you.
We’ll all miss you Dardee.