It’s been 13 long years since I last saw your face, since I waved goodbye to you in the back of that ambulance whilst my head nestled into mum’s protective embrace. The thing is Dad, It was like I always knew I was going to lose you. The day you and mum parted when I was just four years old is as clear as yesterday in my mind, you packed up your stuff and walked out that door, mum hugging me closely and wiping my tears. I knew then my time with you was limited. I always worried about you, I took my ‘Simba’ teddy you brought me for my fourth Birthday everywhere with me, I even slept with one of your old vests for a while, I called you from every school trip and I hated being too far away from you, even though we didn’t live together anymore. Then, when you got sick and ‘the voices’ made you do some things that people found difficult to understand, you said it had all been to protect me, to protect me from my own nightmares and I felt guilty that I ever told you about them. After all I was ‘Daddy’s little girl’ and you were always going to protect me. You were faced with a very long prison sentence and I sat down on my grazed, childhood knees for the first time in my life and prayed. I prayed every night that the judge would see you were sick, that someone would understand, even if that meant you being detained in a forensic hospital for 9 months, I could deal with that.
The years following your release were some of the best and we grew closer as father and daughter. But the inevitable soon came, that dreaded day when scan results showed a shadow on your lung. Mum told me the results and reassured me “they don’t know what it is yet”. Except, I knew. “It’s lung cancer” I said, a huge lump forming in my throat. See Dad, I had always worried about the amount of cigarettes you smoked. The media was always talking about the links of smoking and lung cancer. Something happening to you was always my biggest fear, but protecting you was out of my control. My 13 year old self was powerless against fate. The lung cancer was confirmed and three weeks later we lost you. Just like that, you were gone.
I spent the next few years racked with guilt as I hadn’t let you see me cry throughout the short time we knew you were sick. I thought I needed to be brave. Looking back, the truth is I didn’t know what to feel, I was numb. Had the lack of tears made me look cold? Did you know how much I loved you? Sure, I said it enough but did you believe it? I pushed mum and everyone else away for a long while after when all they needed was a hug. There was no affection, no emotion, I had nothing! I didn’t know how to deal with it, I was facing my worst nightmares and my biggest fear had came true, I had lost you. I bottled things up and I never told new friends of my loss. I wanted so much to have someone to blame, some way to seek justice for you being taken from me but it was no one’s fault.
As the years passed the depression soon came and so did the tears but you know that don’t you? A visit to a group median connected me with you again. A crowd of people had gathered at our local village hall, all desperately seeking answers, closure or reassurance that their loved ones were still around. The man picked me out of the crowd and told me that you could see me crying now. That day Dad, allowed me to move on. I felt as though the whole world had lifted from my shoulders, you could see me, you knew how much I was hurting!
A couple of years later, I was ready to leave the village we grew up in, to leave all the precious memories, to leave Simba and our family behind and to make my last visit to your grave for a while. I realised that keeping my loved ones close was never going to stop the inevitable and worrying about it would only consume me. My anxieties had already turned to focus on my Nan, I knew her health was a ticking time bomb. But, my Nan, my Mum and everyone else couldn’t be protected by me never straying too far. It was time to break free from my anxieties.Losing you, Dad, helped me to grow and to venture out into the big, wide world of the unknown. After all you were my proof that life was far too short to spend it worrying about things already mapped out by fate. This was my chance to embrace life, something you were so cruelly robbed of. I wanted to ensure that you didn’t die in vain. I promise you Dad, I am so grateful for my beautiful life.
The first time I wrote to you, I told you it was ok, that you could close your eyes now and that the nightmare was over. Well Dad, my nightmare is finally over. Please keep guiding me on this incredible journey through life, as I embark on a new chapter as a parent and face a whole new world of fears and anxieties, remind me that I have faced my biggest fears once already. Remind me that I have survived.
Love you always,
Your (not so ) little girl.