It’s time to reflect on another month. December, the final month of 2018. It’ll be written from the heart as we lost someone who we held dear to us.
John, a loyal and proud family man lost his battle with dementia. The cruel disease advanced so quickly, the weeks leading up to his death felt like a whirlwind. “In sickness and in health” his beautiful wife Lorena was always by his side.
John was my father in law and welcomed me into their family from the first day Tony introduced me to them ‘officially’. He would always want people to feel welcome and offer you a drink on arrival to the house…. sometimes it’d be a milky coffee, other times a (strong) gin and tonic.
A people person, I always admired his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. It’s a trait that will continue to live on through all 4 of his children. [If you’re reading this Tony, it’s something I’ve always admired about you.]
Even as the dementia progressed, he would still chat to people although he couldn’t always remember who they were. He enjoyed a game of snooker, but always had to win. The competitive side never left him. On our weekly trips to their house he would spend time with his grandchildren; they’d do the crossword, play dominoes together, listen to music or watch Sky Sports.
Our children had some understanding about dementia as they saw it progress with my Nan, so we tried to keep the conversation open and honest. Despite my daughter being uncomfortable in hospitals, together with her Dad and brother she chose to visit Grandad once during his stay in hospital. It turned out to be the last time they both saw him.
In the days after, we created a memory box that we can add photos and drawings to, and my son and I wrote a poem that we put in his coffin alongside some family photographs.
As a child, I never went to a funeral. My first funeral was for my Grandad in 2013. I suppose I’d built up a fear of funerals over the years and whilst emotionally draining, I think it’s important that we get chance to say goodbye with people coming together, sharing stories and celebrating the life of the person we’ve lost.
With that in mind I left it open for the children to decide if they wanted to come to the funeral. [Whether that’s right or wrong I’m not sure. I’m a parent that’s just trying to do my best.] They chose to come to the funeral, my son had memorised the poem and asked to read it at the service.
I was fortunate to have planned a quiet December work-wise as I knew there would be various school activities and performances, but it also meant I was able to be there to support the family during those blurry days between the death and the funeral. I’ll always be grateful for having the flexibility to do this!
Christmas was tough, being honest I’ve found it difficult since I lost my Nan in January 2016 but it was spent surrounded by family and that’s a gift in itself.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu.