I have never witnessed anyone fight for their life in such a positive and courageous manner. He has the most amazing strength out of anyone I know and has taught me the most valuable lesson I have ever learnt and that is: no matter how big the problem, no matter how much you have to suffer, you must always believe there will be a positive ending and never lose your sense of humor or your happiness.
Some of you may recognise this quote from my very first post in this section of my blog. A section I dedicated to one of the most remarkable people I have ever met in my life and his courageous battle to not only survive but live life to the fullest.
Sadly, as you probably guessed from my radio silence, on the 4th February 2013 P, my father, lost his long battle with cancer, a battle he refused to give into. One which he woke up to everyday without a single complaint. Never once did he moan, let on he was sick, weak, in pain, frustrated or angry, feelings which would have only been human. Instead; he woke up every day with a smile on his face and would turn to my mother and say “how great is it that I get to spend one more day with you” then he would get up, smiling, give her a big hug and go into the sitting room and spend the day smiling, joking and refusing to let cancer get the better of him.
The story of P is one I want to write for several reasons. Firstly because I never want to let myself forget what a remarkable man my father was. Secondly because I want his family to have his story. Thirdly to share the story with those of you who are going through a similar thing, sadly cancer is a huge part of society nowadays, there are too many victims of this disease and I want you to know that you´re not alone.
It´s funny, if you had asked me when I was younger what my father´s biggest flaw was I would have immediately turned to you and said without a doubt his stubbornness. My father was an incredible man; he was kind, he was optimistic, funny, lively and above all; loving but, like every single person out there, he had his flaws. Flaws, like his stubbornness, which I have inherited. A few years ago his stubbornness drove me up the wall, due to how similar we were in personality it meant that when we disagreed over something, granted it was rare, both of us were too stubborn to give in and wound each other up no end. Now I look at his stubbornness and I admire it, respect it and see that sometimes, what you consider to be somebody´s flaw might actually be one of their most admirable qualities. In the end, dad´s stubbornness was what kept him alive, what kept him happy and what allowed him to keep pushing through even when it was against all odds. He was too stubborn to give up and I will always remember him for that, always. I know that if the shoe was on the other foot I would have thrown the towel in, I wouldn´t have been strong enough to go through everything he did and still come out smiling and happy to be alive.
One thing that has to be said about my dad, all through his life, is that he was one of the most vivacious, fun-loving people you could come across. I always describe him as a child trapped in an adult´s body. No matter what my dad was doing, whether it was walking hand in hand with my mother or being hosed down by the fire brigade at las fallas, he was in his element. He found the joy in everything, appreciated everything and had this passion for life that refused to die even in the toughest of times. He was the sort of person who spoke to everyone, was brutally honest with everyone (which sometimes got him in trouble) and was remembered by everyone he met. He had the biggest heart, whether you were family or just friends it didn´t matter to him, once you were in his life that was it; he would do anything for you, sometimes too much, and never expect anything in return except a smile.
That was one of the nicest things that we learnt after his passing. While we always knew my dad had helped people and touched people´s lives; we didn´t know to what extent until people started coming forward and sharing stories with us. Some of whom we, my mum and I, didn´t even know. It´s funny though, I´m convinced that my dad died unaware of this. He was a man who saw the negative in himself instead of the positive. If he had done a hundred good things and just one bad thing, he´d focus on the bad thing and forget just how good a man he was.
It´s strange, he took his illness as a sort of penance for his sins in life. Something that, if you knew him you would know was ridiculous, but it was how he felt and that was why he was able to deal with it in such a positive manner.
Not only did my dad have a passion for life but also for rugby. He lived for rugby. When he was younger he played rugby, sadly I wasn´t around to witness this, and people still talk about how talented he was at the sport. This talent and passion lived on right to the end. I have some great memories of going to Munster matches with him, talking to the players with him, even watching matches on television with him. When he came to Spain his love for rugby continued and in our local he was called “Rugby Joe”. I often wonder how he didn´t get a heart attack at matches; he was so involved in what was happening.
The extend of his passion can be shown in this story. On the 3rd of February my dad was extremely weak and sick, I had spoken to him on Skype and he had told me that he was fine, my dads famous words, but he wasn´t. Mum had been in contact with me to tell me that I needed to make my way home that he was really bad and that she was bringing him to hospital. However, dad being dad, agreed he needed to go to hospital but said that there was no rush that he would go once the Ireland match was over. Sick as he was, he still found pleasure in rugby and didn´t see why him feeling sick should get in the way of that. Seven hours later my dad passed away.
One thing, despite any of his flaws, that I will always remember about my dad is his ability to love and to express his love. I feel so lucky to have had a dad who not only told me how much he loved me everyday but also showed me. His hugs are one of the things I miss the most, he had this way of squeezing you so tightly that you felt every inch of his love for you. Even when he was angry and knew that he had done something that had upset you or said something he shouldn´t have, you knew how much he loved you because you could see just how hurt he was because he had hurt you.
My dad will always be someone who I will think of and smile and say yes my dad might not have been perfect, yes my dad might have done things that hurt me or my family from time to time but my dad loved me with every inch of his body, my dad taught me to live life to the fullest, to smile through my problems, to fight for happiness, to fight for love, to fight to be heard, to fight to be myself and to be as loving and caring as I can be.
I think that my dad was such an inspirational man. He had his problems, his regrets but he never let them control his life. He had this way of looking at life that I both admire and envy because I know that no matter how hard I try to have his outlook, I will never be as content as he was. He saw life as something that was out of his control, something that was fleeting and something that had to be enjoyed while you were in it. And my dad sure as hell enjoyed his life. He was the most grateful and excitable man I have ever met. I mean what other person on this planet would turn around to their wife after she giving him his medication, or feeding him through his tube and say thank you? Most people would take that for granted, but not my dad.
So what have I learnt from him? The most important thing is to love with all my heart. My parents relationship is one I will always admire. My dad loved my mum with all of his heart and never let her forget that. Sure they had their ups and downs like every relationship does but their love was something that was never questioned. He never feared being in love and never felt the need to keep it to himself. He idolised my mum and treated me like a princess.
Another thing is that everyone has flaws but flaws don´t define a person but rather the kindness in their hearts. My dad did and said a lot of things which he regretted in life but at the end of the day all those things get forgotten about and what is remembered is not your flaws but how you treated people. My dad was a gentleman, without drink, and that is what is will always be remembered as.
Lastly; live life to the full. Everyone has problems, everyone goes through bad times but it´s getting through them with a smile on your face and knowing that yeah times are hard but f**k it, I´m going to get through this and I´m going to do it with a smile on my face, that´s what counts. Life is extremely short, too short and the more time you waste wallowing and saying if only, why this, why me the less time you have to enjoy it and be happy.
So this is my tribute story to my father. It´s not a story that does him justice, no story of mine could, but it is a glimpse of his personality and his courage and strength. A few years ago if you told me that I was like my father I would have done anything to correct my flaws. However, now if you told me I took after him I would be honoured. My dad is my flawed hero. a person I would be proud to turn out like. I´m glad to have inherited his stubbornness, his temper, his childlike excitability, his laugh, his smile and his softness when it comes to people. These are things that when I was younger I hated having got from him but now am happy to have them. His flaws are my flaws now, a part of him will always be with me that way, never forgotten.
I will be continuing my one day at a time series as I have planned to visited all the places my dad had on his list and these places, these trips, belong in this section as they were inspired by him and dreamed of by him.
I hope you liked my little glimpse into my father´s life. I´ve kept it short and to the point. I´ve been blessed to have him as a father and for the family that I have. Thank you to my mum and both sides of the family for your constant support, and to all my friends who have been rocks to me throughout all of this.
As always, thank you for reading, and I will talk to you in my next post.