A reflection on loss

It’s funny how each person processes a devastating loss differently. I get a lot of comments from friends and family about how strong I am in the face of the loss of my father. My husband too has heard this and while we both agree that I have been able to push on despite this gaping hole in my life, we both also know that I too have moments of utter, debilitating sadness. I know that it was my father who gifted me with the ability to approach serious situations with practicality and lightness, but that can only last for so long (generally until I am alone in bed, looking through pictures or listening to music or thinking or desperately trying not to think).

I am not sure if I had mentioned this previously, but the way my dad told me terrible news was always in the form of a joke of sorts.¬†When my mom was in a car accident in 2008, my dad called me late at night, around midnight-1am. I had just returned from a late-night curling game (we are wild!) and was settling into my dorm room with a movie before bed. Dad called and was surprised to find me up, “What are you doing up so late?!” I, not realizing how weird it was for him to be calling so late, decided to sass him back, “Why are you calling so late?!”

“What are you doing up so late?”

“Why are you calling so late?”

And so it went back and forth a few times, each sassing the other. Then, my dad broke the news that mom was in an accident. She’s okay now, but was seriously injured, requiring physio, screws in her hand and foot, and having to suffer under my watchful eye over the Christmas holiday.

In November of 2011 my parents were slated to come for a visit from Friday to Monday. Much to my surprize they arrived on Wednesday afternoon, surprizing me at school. I thought it was another of my family’s surprize visits, this time gift me two extra days with them in the city (later I would get 6 weeks as a result). They found me in the Harbour Centre and asked if I could go for a beer as they had something to talk to me about. My mind raced, what in the world could they be so solemn about. Ridiculously, my mind went to divorce. This is particularly ridiculous if you knew my parents at all. The love between my mother and father could supply a thousand cupids; hand holding, bum pinching, sweet looks and more, were still a daily occurrence 28 years into their marriage. I thought to myself, “Why would they take this trip all the way to Vancouver just to tell me. No, Stacey, that’s crazy.”

Anyway, we made our way to a pub up the street on Granville, them hand-in-hand. We sat down at an awkward little bar-height table, perched on stools and ordered beers and some appetizers. Dad looked at me and said, “Stacey, you were right all along. I have a brain tumour.” I laughed because it was silly. Then I started to cry because I realized that he was being serious. Mom’s eyes were welling up and I sat there, eyes brimming over with tears, trying to comprehend what that meant.

What it meant for my family was having mom and dad return to Vancouver for six weeks of radiation through December and January. It meant a beautiful Christmas, jammed into our tiny little one-bedroom apartment, my youngest niece sleeping in the tub. It meant getting to spend more time with my parents than I’d been able to for a few years. It meant mom, dad, and I getting to know more about the inside of the Vancouver General Hospital than we’ve ever wanted to. It essentially meant that in a years time I was going to lose my father, a man who has shaped who I am: my humour, my patience (and occasional lack-thereof), my interests and talents.

It is nice to look back on the time we spent together here in Vancouver, because despite the terrible circumstances, it was really good to be together. Looking back on my childhood and adolescence growing up with such amazing parents is also so wonderful. Right now though, just months after losing my father, all I can look back to was the time we spent together in the hospital in Whitehorse, leading up to his death. That too was good time, in that we were together. But it was also kind of terrible. My father had to lose his strength, his ability to use his left side, and eventually his ability to speak. He continued to be the funny, kind, loving father and friend that he always was, but it breaks my heart to think of how he suffered. We had to watch this powerful, amazing man have his strength taken.

I am a puddle of tears as I write this, because it is devastating. Thinking about those weeks we spent together and the fact that it culminated in my father’s passing is absolutely devastating. There is a hole in my heart, in my life and the lives of my mom, sister, friends and family, that will never be filled. My dad was only 61 when he passed away. When he first went into the hospital’s palliative care unit, the neurologist told us he had 2 weeks. Four weeks later, his GP told us that because his body was in otherwise great health, it was hard to say when he would pass. The brain tumour was the only thing to take him from us.

My sister and I are going to get scans of our own to set a baseline for our brains. Though the type of tumour that dad had is not supposed to be hereditary, our family has had an unusually high occurrence and we want to be safe rather than sorry, again. Anyway, this is why I am doing the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada Spring Sprint. And I am so thankful to all of the incredible people who have decided to join me. Our team, somewhat unofficially, now has abut 15 people coming to Vancouver to walk together in the memory of my dad, my aunt, and in honour of the wonderful Katey Norton. That’s amazing, it is going to be a beautiful walk together, I know dad would love it. I am thrilled to get a chance to support the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and I hope that we continue to work up some wonderful donations so that one day, nobody will have to go through what we have gone through.

Again, if you are interested in donating to the Hook, Line, and Sprinters for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, click the image above. Canadians affected by a brain tumour benefit from your generosity which funds education, information, and support as well as research into the cause and better treatments for brain tumours.