Today is the twentieth anniversary of my dad’s death. Had he still been alive he would have been 68 two days ago.
I was twenty one and at university when he died. I spoke to him on his 48th birthday and got a phone call from my aunt twenty years ago today. His death wasn’t a shock. He was in hospital at the time and had been suffering from aggressive lung cancer for almost a year.
I went back, organised his funeral, cleared out his flat, sold his car, and got a student loan to pay for the funeral. Once it was over I went back to university and carried on studying. It was all very matter-of-fact. Just one of those events in life that just need to be dealt with. Nothing to get worked up about.
I don’t feel any regret, or very many emotions at all, about what happened, how it happened, or what I did. Even at twenty one I had a pretty stoic attitude to death, and life. I guess I felt that we all have to accept the consequences of our actions and that if you choose to smoke lots of cigarettes from a young age then you can expect to die young from lung cancer.
I think that same attitude informed my decision to go to university that year. I spent the summer before with my dad, caring for him as the cancer got worse, watching him laying on the floor in a coughing fit for almost an hour at a time and then helping him into bed. He said that I might have to stay and care for him rather than going to university but I said no, and when the time came for me to pack my bag and get on a coach to Sheffield, I did. That was the last time I saw my dad, and even though he died a couple of weeks later, I’ve never doubted that I made the right decision.