Just on 10 years ago my Father’s soul left his body.
He’d only just turned 51 although 3 years earlier was diagnosed with (what the medical profession like to call) a severe form of prostate cancer.
It was a hideous 4 or so months for me in the lead up to his death. Last year when diligently spending my days writing my book I came across a stress assessment tool, rated myself and was shocked when the results indicated that 150- 300 was a high likelihood of getting sick.
I’d scored 420.
I wasn’t even on the chart.
In just the same way I’d shrugged off being there for my Dad’s last laboured and traumatic gasp and silently wiped a few tears off my cheeks – I was the strong one, hell I prided myself at not being emotional – I’d gone my whole life pushing things down and pretending like they didn’t really affect me.
I was good at it.
Well I’d have to be.
I learnt from the best.
My Father’s journey with death changed me. Probably as you’d expect. But it changed me so profoundly, I now look at that period of my life and believe it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
The deep aching trauma, the questioning ‘why me?’ destroying pain. The confusion, the loneliness- god the soul robbing loneliness that left me rattled and raw. The helplessness, the feeling of being so useless and unwanted, it striped me apart. The anger towards what was happening, what we all had to go through and the tearing open of old wounds that I had no idea how to work through.
It was all worth it.
And no I’m not meaning the way everything that has happened to you has made you into the wonderful person you are today, although of course that is true. I mean I am truly appreciative, grateful even, of losing my Father so young.
In those heart aching few years prior to his death, I started to truly question and awaken that suppressed Rebel inside. I’d come to learn we were all made up of stories, most of them false, that kept us small and unaware of our strengths. Racing the 280km across New Zealand in the Coast to Coast and placing top 10 opened my eyes and my soul to the potential that lay inside me. I questioned if I could do this, then what else could I do? And what good was a life not lived, a life restricted by fears, a life lived on your death bed wishing you’d done, seen and been more?
After Dad died, I’d taken off a month later to live in the UK. I had nothing left for me, no work, home, partner or life for me in New Zealand. To this day it still cripples me the anguish inside, to look out into the sea of faces giving a speech at Dad’s funeral, and see not one friend.
Not a single friend.
But it was the way I had wanted it, the undeserving part of me reined.
My StepMother had set the funeral for a weekday morning, and although I initially pushed back. It was so hard for her to make a decision through all her pain, I truly got that. My Brother and I had lived and had friends on the north island, which was 2 plane rides away (in fact my Brother was currently living the other side of the World.) Most of the family were already with us, apparently the people who mattered would be there, but this ultimately meant I was even more alone.
‘I was fine’ I told my friends, ‘I’ve got so much family here.’ It was too far, cost too much money and far too much time to come. I pushed that hurting part of me that really wanted people around me down. Ultimately I didn’t feel worthy of it. So no one came. Why would you make the effort when someone was telling you not to?
‘See you’re not worth it Andrea, no one really cares. People will only hurt you anyway and won’t be there when you need them. You are better off alone’ was all that I heard.
I’d spent so many years comparing myself with my Brother who seemed to live like life didn’t change for him after Dad died. Whilst the Rebel in me grew larger and stronger.
I threw off the constraints that had conditioned me to be the perfect citizen. I said ‘fuck you’ to society, partied hard – god oh so hard; took drugs, travelled most weekends, slept around, worked hard (in contract stints) but played harder. I had no one but myself to tell me not to do something, and that voice could be silenced by drugs and alcohol. Life was for living and pushing my body to the max. I finally felt free. I finally felt like I could be who I wanted to be.
But I’d watched Dad take that gruesome last breath as my Brother was sitting on a plane from London, I’d imagine full of anguish. I was the one who had sat in Dad’s room. My belly nauseous with guilt as I heard him say that he’d wish he’d done more and travelled more. Hell there was still so much more he wanted to do with his life.
But he couldn’t.
He never would get the opportunity to do these things.
A life cut short of lived possibilities.
I sat there and told myself that I would never say that. That I couldn’t say that. That I owed it to everything and everyone to throw off the bowlines and set sail to the life I desire.
I couldn’t bare to come to the end of my life and utter those simple, yet self destroying words.
No, no, I wouldn’t.
And as I sit in a beautiful valley, 2400m above sea level, surrounded by floating butterflies, buzzing bees, a wave of colourful flowers with the Kazakhstan mountains above me. I honour my Father, my Mother, my Brother, my love, my friends and family, our World, all the people I’ve met and will meet, and all of the earthlings; and I think to myself, how truly incredible it is to be living my life and how grateful I am to be alive