Wednesday, 13 November 2013


There's a hospital next door to where I work.  It's the cancer hospital.  Every morning I walk by it to get my morning latte from the hospital next door to it (there are 4 hospitals on that stretch of the street).  It's a sad state of affairs that I have to walk half a block for a decent coffee (and even then it's hit and miss). But that is not what this post is about.

Last year they began some construction  and boarded up the front entrance of the hospital.  The boards quickly started getting covered in graffiti.  People leaving messages up in memory of their loved ones or messages of thanks to the doctors and nurses that had helped them.  There were some quotes from the Bible, quotes of inspiration and even some poetry.

I passed by them all the time.  I'm not sure I really gave them any thought.

My dad started feeling unwell around this time last year.  Probably earlier but it was in October he got a cold that took awhile to shake off.  Mum kept saying "dad's not feeling well."  And she'd keep my little boy with her instead of sending him out with my dad.  Eventually, sometime in December it was confirmed that he had cancer.  They saw it on his liver.  It had originated in his stomach.  It explained his loss of appetite.  It explained why he was turned off by what used to be his favourite foods.  The man who used to drink gallons of tea (slight exaggeration) was down to one cup a day.  If that.

Writing this makes me immensely sad.  It constricts my chest.  A weight sits upon me.  Sometimes I can barely breathe.  We are coming on a year. And the weight - it seems to be getting heavier.

Around this time I noticed someone had written a verse of the Quran on one of the boards.  The person had written the verse in Arabic and then in English had added, "You're promised hope - take it."  I could read the verse but had to look up the translation: "Verily, along with every hardship is relief. Verily, along with every hardship is relief. (Surah Inshirah 5-6). " 

I shared it with my dad.  "Dad, you're promised relief.  In every darkness there is light.  You just have to look for it.  It's not at the end of the tunnel, it's in the tunnel."  It gave me great solace - that verse did.  I saw it every day.

My dad succumbed to the disease in early February - two months after the diagnosis.  I was off work for a couple of weeks.  When I got back, the boards had been covered up.  Replaced with marketing for the hospital's fundraising efforts.

I like to think it was written there for me.  A sign to tell me that relief is never far.  It may just not look like you might expect.

Immediately after he died we felt relief - consoled that he didn't suffer for too long, privileged to have been a part of his journey.  A little shell shocked perhaps.  But now, ten months on, I feel the tightness in my throat, the sting in my eyes, the weight on my chest, the lead in my feet.  They're all a little harder to ignore.  In our family, we don't do grand displays of emotion.  We pull our socks up and get on with it.  So it comes to me when I am alone and off guard - sitting in a dark room waiting for my children to fall asleep, on a train full of people, walking home.  

They say grief is all consuming.  They are right.

I want to know when it goes away.  I want to see the light in this tunnel.  


  1. How brave of you to share this. Hard to know how to respond.

    Someone once told me that with grief, you have to keep walking (like in Psalm 23, "Though I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, You are with me"). Some people want to sprint through that valley, get it over with. Others sit down and get stuck. The key is to keep walking - slowly and painfully, but to keep moving. Grief is a process. Perhaps that ties in with the idea in the quotation: "It's not at the end of the tunnel, it's in the tunnel."

    Thank you for writing this, and I'm sorry for your loss. I think people often find the first year anniversary, and the period approaching it, very hard.

    1. The truth is I actually wrote this a few weeks ago and the process was cathartic. I couldn't post it until I was a few weeks removed from it. Grief is a lonely business. We spend a lot of time putting up a front or just getting on with it - especially when we have young children to distract us. I am discovering that blogging provides me with an avenue to express myself in a way I probably wouldn't in my daily interactions - for fear of breaking down I guess.

      I was reading the Vogue Article: "The Long Road Back: How to keep going after the unimaginable happens" by Madonna Badger (the woman who lost all her children and her parents in a house fire). I had heard about the tragedy when it happened and always wondered how one would come back from a tragedy like it. Her story is one of incredible strength and perseverance. She says: "Basically, I go to wherever the light is, because anything else is darkness, and it can be a deeply black darkness." I am by no means comparing myself to her but that quote really resonated with me.

      Thank you Iota - for taking the time to respond.

  2. I'm just reading this--and the comments--now. (I have taken an internet break for several weeks.) I am so sorry about your father, so sorry for all you have been through. Every once in a while someone manages to write about grief in a way that strikes me as stunningly original and shockingly true--I read the article in Vogue just this week, as a matter of fact, and while I was struck by the passage you quote above, I honestly think your blog post is better, more raw, more striking. You're both getting at the same idea, but you manage the details better. And I know exactly the feeling of being ambushed, in private, by grief.
    You are in my thoughts.

    1. Thank you IB for your kind words. Grief is incredibly lonely and can only be really understood (as most things can) by those who have travelled along a similar path.

      I have to say I am well chuffed that you took the time to read my words. And to say that they resonated with you and that you liked my writing (!!) - I am honoured. I love your writing and writing a blog, as public as it is, is not something that comes easily to me. I am honoured every time someone whose words I read, reads mine (how needy am I?). Right, I'm going to shut up now - gushing is not something I am generally comfortable with and I fear if we were face to face, one or both of us might now be looking around uneasily trying to figure out how to get away.

      Thank you.

  3. I don't know how I've only just seen this but I am both so sorry I didn't see it earlier and so pleased I have seen it now. Amazing writing. I don't know how you're feeling but when something similar happens (as it will, I know) I will be coming back to this post.

    1. Thank you Harriet. I've been finding that writing is a great release for me. I haven't necessarily been publishing everything I've written but the process of getting it out onto "paper" helps me move through it. Grief is so personal that you never really know how you will react or what will resonate with you. One thing is for certain though - I have discovered that the internet makes it less lonely somehow. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. I do hope that have a space to write down how you are feeling has helped a little with your grieving. I like to think of my dad living on in me somehow. I know that if I have a sudden flash of temper, that's something I inherited from him and it makes me smile, but I am six years further along the road than you and find it easier now to think of my dad with a smile than a tear x

    1. Thank you Sandy. Yes it has been extremely helpful to write it down. It's amazing how writing it down can help relieve some of the otherwise pent up emotions. I have days when I remember my dad with a smile but there are still many moments when it hits me (again) that he's gone - weirdly it still feels like a shock when it does.