It wasn’t so long ago that I was with my dad at Land’s End.
We were united again for a single heady moment on that dramatic rocky headland overlooking the Atlantic and its crashing waves, meeting at a landmark we both knew well, having visited often – the iconic white much-photographed tourist signpost.
I wrote then that Land’s End is not Journey’s End – that despite my dad’s dementia leaving him all at sea, you can find ways to bridge the gulf, to be connected, if you keep looking.
It was only a snapshot between us – but still a special unforgettable moment.
Sadly my dad has now reached Journey’s End – well this present journey at least. He died on Easter Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack.
Driving to his nursing home, after receiving a call to come urgently, I got stuck behind a 20 mph motorist, and was reduced to a frustrating crawl for the last few miles. With no choice but to slow right down a strange calm settled on me and somehow I knew at that moment dad was at peace too.
The paramedic Lisa was so tender and kind as she led me to a chair in the office and said in a quiet calming voice that they’d done all they could, but that dad had slipped away about 10 minutes before.
Nick, the home’s deputy manager, was as upset as I was. He’d tried hard to save dad himself. Having lost his own mum recently, his strain and sympathy were evident.
They took me to dad’s room. He looked as if he was merely sleeping. Serene. At peace. The sun was streaming through the window, its rays falling on the heart motif hanging there.
On the window sill was the calendar I’d made dad and all the family for Christmas, open on the April view of my mum riding on Exmoor – a reminder of so many happy, outdoor, fresh air moments for us all.
I’d been to see dad just the afternoon before. At the last minute I’d run back to the house to collect a photo album of family pictures, and we sat there leafing through it together – pictures of many treasured times spent with mum, me, my sister and brother and their families, my three nieces and my nephew.
Dad didn’t speak, but I know he knew us all – that he was surrounded by our collective love for him.
I took him an Easter egg and a banana. He ate both, clearly savouring the taste and the moment.
Soon though he was up from his chair, wandering as he often did.
“Where are you off to dad?” I asked.
“Down the town!” he replied.
“OK. See you later then,” I said.
It was the last exchange of words between us. Very typical of our times spent together. Off on some outdoor adventure, whether together or apart, but always understanding and supporting each other in whatever undertaking it was.
Just before I left, one of the staff, Costo, asked dad for a hug and the two of them held each other briefly – a tender bond between patient and carer.
I said a quick goodbye to dad, who was already off down the corridor, gone to explore.
I had no idea it was the last time I’d see him walking away from me.
Reflecting now on that afternoon, I’m so happy to know dad continued to be well looked after right up until the moment he died, that he could still appreciate the taste of nice food, that he’d seen all his family so recently and that even near his journey’s end in this life, he was off planning some new horizon to travel to.
I love you dad. See you on our next adventure somewhere sometime…..