I have never witnessed anyone fight for their lives in such a courageous manner. He has the most tremendous strength out of anyone I know. Through him, I have learnt that no matter how large a problem is, no matter how much suffering is involved, have faith that everything will be alright in the end. And, most importantly, and never lose your sense of humour or smile.
Some of you may recognise this quote from my very first post in this section of my blog. I dedicated it to one of the most remarkable people I have ever met, my dad. The series recounts his courageous battle to not only survive cancer but also 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. For him, it was a battle he refused to give in to—one which he woke up to every day without a single complaint. Never once did he moan, let on he was sick, in pain, frustrated or angry-all feelings that would have been accepted and human. Instead, he woke up every day with a smile on his face, turned to my mother and said, “how great is it that I get to spend one more day with you”. He would then get up, give her a hug, go into the sitting room, and spend the day smiling, joking, and refusing to let cancer get the better of him.
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, optimistic, funny, lively, and above all, loving, but, like every single person out there, he had his flaws. Such flaws include his stubbornness, which I have undoubtedly inherited. A few years ago, his stubbornness drove me up the wall. Mainly because of how similar we were in personality. Our stubborn nature meant that when we disagreed over something, which was rare; both of us were too headstrong to give in. Now I look at his stubbornness and admire it. I’ve come to 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 kept him alive; it kept that smile on his face. It’s what allowed him to keep pushing through even when the odds were against him. He was too strong-minded to give up. I will always remember him for that. I know that if the shoe was on the other foot, I would have thrown in the towel. I wouldn’t have been strong enough to go through everything he did and still come out smiling and feeling grateful 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 joy in everything, appreciated everything and had this passion for life that refused to die, even in the most challenging 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 he even did too much and never expect anything in return except a smile.
Admittedly, one of the most heartwarming things we learned after his passing was how kind my dad was to others. 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 that one thing and forget just how good a man he truly was. It’s strange, but it seems like he took his illness as a 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, but people still talk about how talented he was at the sport. This talent and passion lived on right until the end. I have some great memories of going to Munster matches with him, talking to the players with him, even watching games 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 the following anecdote.
On 3rd February, my dad was frail and sick. My mother needed to take him to hospital. However, dad being dad, agreed he needed to go to the hospital but said that there was no rush, he wait until 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.
Despite any of his flaws, I will always remember my dad’s ability to love and express his love. I feel so lucky to have had a dad who not only told me how much he loved me every day 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. My dad might not have been perfect, but my dad loved me with every inch of his body. He taught me to live life to the fullest, smile through problems, fight for happiness, fight for love, fight to be heard, and be as loving and caring as possible.
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. 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 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 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 parent’s 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, however, flaws don’t define a person but rather the kindness in their hearts. My dad did and said many things that he regretted in life, but all those things get forgotten about. What is remembered is not your flaws, but how you treated people. My dad was a gentleman, and that is what will always be remembered.
Lastly, live life to the fullest. Everyone has problems. Everyone goes through bad times. However, 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 with a smile on my face, that’s what counts. Life is extremely short, too short, and the more time you waste wallowing, 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. It is, however, 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, childlike excitability, laugh, smile, and softness when it comes to people. Some of these are things that, when I was younger, I hated having got from him. 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 visit all the places my dad had on his list. 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 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.