Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Year On

It’s so insane that it has been a whole year since one of the greatest men I’ve never known died. My Granddad, lovingly known as Pop, died at home with my Nan by his side. It’s hard to put into words how I feel, and I’ve had to try to write this on four separate occasions, just to try and get all my thoughts together. This post may be a little all over the place, but bear with me.

In January 2015, Pop was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lung cancer, and his prognosis was terminal from the start. My Mum and Dad drove to Liverpool to tell me in person, and before they even got in the flat, I knew something was wrong. Over the next few months, through chemo and countless doctor appointments, it seemed as though the chemo was helping with his lung cancer. He was able to breathe easier, and he could swallow soft foods again.

I was on my way to the gym (I don't remember when, it's all a bit of a blur) when I got a call from my Dad saying that the cancer had spread to his brain, liver and bones. I spent the previous few months absolutely certain that he was going to be the exception; That he would defy the doctors, and he’d go back one day and all the cancer had gone, and we’d live happily ever after, if you will. I dropped everything and went back to my flat with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I took a lot of comfort in food during those months, but that’s another story for another time.

A year ago, at about 7am, I got a phone call from my Mum saying that Pop had passed away a couple of hours ago, with my Nan by his side. I told her I’d get the next train, and put the phone down. I sat in bed in shock for a few minutes, while Dave got me the train times and rang a taxi. The whole train journey there I sat silently, staring at the back of the chair in front of me, blinking back the inevitable tears.

When I finally arrived at my Nan and Pop’s house, he was still there. I’ve always said that I couldn’t ever stand to go to an open casket funeral, because no matter who was in the casket, it wasn’t them. Although their body remains, their soul had gone. I don’t want to dwell on this too much, because it’s still quite painful to think about and picture, but seeing Pop like that was more difficult than I could ever imagine. The funeral directors came and took him around an hour later, and that was it. That was really the last time I’d ever see him.

In the whole seven months he was sick, I spent a lot of time dreading answering the phone: Was this going to be it? Any time I saw Pop, I wondered if it would be the last time. After getting over the initial shock, I really tried to be there as much as I could even though I very selfishly didn’t want to be. I live a fair distance away, I don't drive and I work full time, I wasn't there as much as I wanted to be, and that is something I will always regret. I'm thankful that my pleasant memories of Pop overshadow the sad ones. Although I'll never forget the way he was towards the end, I'll more importantly never forget the way he was when I was younger: The fun-loving, caring, DIY-mad Pop, that would do anything for his family. The Pop that slid down the roller slide at Discovery Zone with me when I was four, and danced around with me to Mr Vain (because I was super in to 90's dance music at four years old apparently).

If I could go back and tell young Samm anything, I’d tell her to spend more time with Pop; To take the chances to go with him to Pickering's Pasture, to visit him more on the weekends, to savour every moment. I’m not a religious person, nor do I hold many beliefs in the paranormal. However, over the past year, I’ve had some strange things happen. I’ve had dreams in which Pop told me to man up and stop moping around, I’ve had white feathers land at my feet and been so overcome with emotion that I’ve had to quickly run and hide to pull myself together. I don’t know what happens after we die, nor do I ever want to, but I take some comfort in the fact that his energy could be out there somewhere. It’s hard to accept that I’ll never hear his booming laugh again. People are going to be gone before you know it.

If you take anything from this, it shouldn't pity or sadness. I don’t for one minute think I’m the only person that will ever be deeply affected by a loss. It’s gratitude that I want you to take from this. Be grateful for your life, your family, your friends, your health, your job. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, sit down and think about how great it is to be alive. Even if it doesn’t make itself clear straight away, there is always something to be grateful for.

I can hear his bellowing laugh whenever I look at this photo.

There’s so much happening in my life now that I’d love to just chat to Pop about. I feel like I’ve been through hell and back, and I know he’d know exactly what to say. Ashley’s off to University soon and will be a black belt, Erin’s saving to do her nursing degree and has just turned 22, and Mum and Dad are doing so much all the time, it’s kind of hard to keep up.

I love and miss you, Pop. How has it been a year already?

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