A few hours before I received the phone call we all dread as daughters and sons, the last moments I had with my father were ones of anger. I left our family home while he waited by the door apologising for raising his voice at me. I pushed past him and slammed the front door behind me. I didn’t accept his apology nor look at his face for what was to be the last time I would see him alive, and I don’t regret it.
I loved my father dearly. He was my best friend and my rock that I leaned on for most of my life. I could talk to him about anything. Money, music, the arts, partners, even sex. I never felt uncomfortable around him and he was, in my mind, the best father ever.
But tragedy struck on February the 18th 2018, just days after I had secured my job in Asia as an English teacher.
That job was everything I thought I wanted. I had worked hard for years, passing exams, earning a degree and getting the right experiences to make myself the most desirable candidate to potential employers.
I was so excited, so as the final week before my pre-booked flight was to take off, as a 20 year old, I prioritised seeing my friends for the last time in what was to be over a year until I returned home.
The last day
My day started like any other. I awoke, had breakfast, browsed the internet and got ready to head out and see friends. Around 5 o’clock, my father came into the room to see how I was and asked if everything was going to plan. I cast off his worries and told him to leave me alone while I got ready.
Looking back, it must have been a particularly stressful day for him as he wasn’t prone to snapping at me. In fact, I think he only did it about 4 times in my life. This was one of those times. He shouted back at me for being ungrateful and that I should spend more time with my family. As an almost natural response, I angrily shouted back that I was going out no matter what and left the room.
As I brushed my teeth in the bathroom, I filled myself with rage.
“Why doesn’t he want me to see my friends? Why is he being so selfish?” I brooded, as my anger rose. I grabbed my coat and headed out.
You know the rest.
I sat on a friend's bed watching films talking about any and everything until my phone rang.
“It’s probably her telling me to come home. If she needs me she can text me” I told my friend as I cast off the call. But she called again. And again. And again.
*1 NEW VOICEMAIL*
I looked down at my phone in anxiety. What could possibly be so important? I thought.
Picking my phone up I listened to the blood curdling voicemail my mother had left me. She screamed and cried down the phone in agony as she urged me to come home.
“Amy come home now. Dad’s had a fall, the ambulances are here” she howled.
The voicemail ended and I stared blankly at my friend. He immediately stood up and got the car keys ready. We headed to my house and I was greeted by two ambulances, one fire engine, and one police car.
My friend put his hand on my lap as I attempted to claw my way out of the car.
“Breathe Amy” He told me. I looked at him in confusion but did as he said and composed myself. Getting out of the car my older sister ran at me crying and lunging in for a hug. I remember vividly she kept repeating herself.
“You’re too young Amy” “Stuff like this doesn’t happen to us” she blubbered.
Illuminated by the emergency services lights, I pushed my way past several emergency respondents and entered my house. As soon as I had one foot in the door and look at the unknown faces in my hallway, I knew he was dead. Silence filled my ears and I was guided to the kitchen. Through the frosted glass that decorated the kitchen door, I could make out multiple silhouettes in uniform all huddling around a body laying on the floor.
Breathe I told myself and pushed on the wooden frame.
There lay my father. Blood had dried and curdled like a halo around his head, as he lay completely still and rigid. I stared in numbness until my mother grabbed my shoulders and dragged me out of the kitchen.
The rest of that night went as most people expect. Emergency respondents slowly filtered out my house and we were given the final time of death by a team member.
Expected time of death 8:30pm.
My family broke down as I remained silent. The friend who had driven me home, helped clean up the blood in the kitchen as men in black suits picked up and transported my father's body away.
“Please can I get out of here” I asked him. He nodded and we drove far away into the countryside.
We drive for miles until eventually, I said
“Stop the car” He did and turned off the engine.
In the pitch-black winter night, I left the warmth of the car and walked away from the car and any form of life. Fumbling into the wooded trees that surrounded me, I cried and, cried and, cried until nothing was left.
“Thank you. You can leave now Dad” I told the air and headed back to the car.
I left that wooden area in the middle of the UK countryside a different person than I entered it. I had to accept that my father was gone and that wasn’t going to change. Of course, I cried and wished he would come back but that can never happen. And in my heart I know that will never change.
The following days were a bit of a blur. I did everything I needed to legally and canceled the flight which was going to take me to the dream job I had wanted since childhood.
But that was behind me now. Now I am something else. I had to re-cultivate and re-imagine myself. Suddenly all these new responsibilities and duties were placed on my shoulders. My dreams no longer mattered.
For months, I spent days indoors trying to piece together my life. Every stage of it revolved around the now non-existent job I once had and the father that supported me, so what was left?
Slowly I started to piece together parts of me that remained. My love of writing, my love of poetry, my love of Taekwondo. Everything that was unique to me. Every part of me that was private and didn’t involve others. Eventually, I began re-constructing myself for myself.
Without anyone else would I be happy? I asked myself every day.
At the start the answer was no, then it became a maybe and now it’s a yes.
6 months on, I started a new job in marketing that I loved and utilized my creative nature, while getting back into Taekwondo. So far, I have excelled in my career and am yet to be defeated in Taekwondo.
Every part of my life has to give me some form of satisfaction that isn’t based on other people, or the opinions of others.
I truly appreciate and love the life and self I am now. But I know, I wouldn’t be this person if my father didn’t pass away. I don’t regret not looking at him for the last time because it has made me accept that I cannot control everything.
No matter how hard you want to change the past, it won’t happen and that is the harsh reality I live with that makes me stronger every day.