Yesterday was Father’s Day and for the first time in over thirty years I didn’t miss my dad, because this year he’d been joined by Mum. It felt different. Strange but definitely less lonely. Looking around old posts in a bid to recall thoughts and relive better times I found this one.
Years ago, as a young nurse, I became very aware how precious time was.
When I was working in accident and emergency I would drive to work,
knowing that in some homes the day ahead was about to change their world.
For some that morning would be their last.
For others life would never be the same again.
During my early days as a nurse when I first walked out onto a ward and saw people of all ages with life threatening conditions, I feared illness.
My friends and I would talk together, about what we had seen that day and were unanimous in our thinking, hoping that when our time ran out it would do so in a sudden unannounced bang!
Then, when I was barely twenty, illness came knocking on my door. My 52 year old Dad was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease. We were told there was no treatment, no cure. Dad’s life would not be a long one.
Maybe a year or two if we were lucky and the end would be a difficult one, trapped in a body which lost all function.
You would think that with time limited we would feel each day fly by and the end of life to come rushing towards us at a frightening speed? However, strangely that didn’t happen.
In fact the opposite occurred. Time slowed down.
There was still 60 seconds in every minute and each day lasted 24 hours. However, for all of us the clock ticked louder. We had no minutes to waste. Time became precious, something we no longer took for granted.
Each day gave us 24 hours, with not one second wasted.
For my Dad I cannot say what it meant to know he would not be staying long, but I do know he had no bucket list. Instead he lived on. Just as he always did, continuing to work for a few more months until MND forced him to retire. Yet, I do not recall him wallowing. Instead he filled his days as best he could and continued to be a large presence in our lives, even when all movement and speech was gone.
It was during this time that my attitude to illness changed. As I spoke at length to my Dad, delighting in his company and sharing my everyday with him in a way a twenty year old never would do with a parent under normal circumstances, I came to realise,
that to be given this knowledge that time was limited,
and every day precious was in fact a privilege.
By being told as a family that for us our time with Dad was to be short, we were in fact being given time.
Instead of a father at work and a family living busy lives,
we were a family living every moment.
There was no time wasted. Right up until the moment time ran out.
In those bleak days, months and weeks after Dads clock stopped,
time changed once more. Each day was still made up of 24 hours,
yet the day seemed endless, and the future which was short before Dad died now seemed too long.
Yet, as the seasons passed and the years rolled by life’s clock continued to tick. I married and had children and lived through what seemed like never ending days, of sleepless nights and years of mothering. Now time has changed once more as it races past bringing with it increasingly distant memories of small babies. My brood are leaving home one by one and there are times when I yearn to slow time down. But I cannot.
The clock that has ticked all my life continues. I don’t know for how long it will do so, nor when life might once again cause it to pause, but, each night as I turn out the light I smile, grateful for the day I’ve had and lucky to have tomorrow’s twenty four hours to look forward to.