October 18th 2000. I was only 26.
A day that I’ll never, ever(!) forget. What for most of the population started off as an ordinary day, was to me a day when ground just sunk from under my feet.
8 am, rain was pouring down accompanied by thunder and lightning. The sound of the zipper of the body bag . That's what I remember most. The air atomizer that suddenly started to overflow. A phone call to my sister ... Already months before that, I knew that this day would come. The precise date was unpredictable. But those months just gave me the opportunity to prepare for it. So I thought… I got the maximum out of those months, that's for sure. I have 'enjoyed' every moment, however bizarre that may sound to you.
In the meantime, I ran my own restaurant together with the father of my children. We did not need a mass staff, no. Only the two of us and someone helping us out during the weekends satisfied. Everything was home made. That's how it was taught to me. The hours that I've spent every day at the business were unimaginable. My social life had become empty. Driven and proud of the result after 10 years, I didn’t think I needed all this. By the way, I had my family, my 2 children and my husband. For years I had to 'miss' family meetings. Until that day. The day that calamity was predicted ...
I can still hear my dad saying: "I have cancer. My chances are zero. It’s terminal. With a heavy intervention, I have a 3% chance of being here longer”. Needless to say that there have been a lot of in-depth discussions about this. “What if it does not work? What are the risks and consequences?”, were the two most important questions. The quality of life suddenly could greatly decrease. No more speech, a cannula, tube feeding, six to nine months left ...
I then made one promise to myself: 'The time remaining will be filled in as optimally and intensively as possible!'. And that's what I did. I only lived, just to experience those last moments as much as possible. I enjoyed that time. Maybe it’s just that what gave me peace at the time of the final farewell.
I could finally catch up. I’ve experienced the most intense moments. I dared and had the possibility to ask how he thought about his last moment - 'his party' (as everyone has already forgotten about you at the coffee table and the most ridiculous jokes are being told) – how he would have liked to have that moment filled in. I had a very open conversation throughout the entire night. I got to leave the hospital at six am feeling releaved. He had taken peace. We were talking about how I lived my life, my childhood, my character ... He continuously gave his sincere opinion of how he viewed everything from a distance. He told downright stories about his childhood, but especially, he entrusted me about the choices he had made in life and the accompanying consequences.
The operation was set for a Monday, closing day of my business. We lived in suspense for over fourteen hours. Unfortunately, all the efforts of the team - at the university hospital - had not produced the preconceived results. We had tried it. I have always found it bizarre that you risk quality of life for something that is virtually non-existent. On the other hand, I can imagine that when you are in that situation you would also go for that sparkle of hope. And most probably you would be very right to do so.
There was no speech, he could not do that anymore. Everything was noted. An ever so eloquent man who always kept the conversation going, who could and would entertain the crowd, could no longer make his voice heard.
Bizarre how you physically have more contact, give hugs and look each other straight in the eye when the verbal aspect has disappeared. There was also laughter, tons of times. He could complain about having to put his stomach to belch ... Euh, the big syringe was taken out, Campari was sucked up and pumped directly into the stomach via the probe. His stomach struck and he got the taste of the Campari in his mouth. "As an angel who pees on my tongue," he wrote down.
He also clearly enjoyed the people around him. He could follow you with his deep sea blue eyes with a big smile on his face. He absorbed every moment fully. I have to admit, those little episodes made that period a lot more bearable.
Often I asked myself the question: 'What is he thinking and feeling right now?' Obviously, this story had two sides. His and mine. Two totally different feelings in one and the same situation.
Often I was 'accused' that I’ve ‘had’ the opportunity to say goodbye. That I was not suddenly informed that my father had died but that I sat next to him and had months to enjoy each other to the full. I honestly do not know what the best situation is! On the contrary, there is no best situation in this case. This is reality. You lose a loved one.
But what I do know: I fucking got months of intensive talks and moments with my dad. For years I had been ‘absent’ and from that moment on I just knew that enjoying your family at the fullest and that the connection you have is priceless! It got me to a point that the bond I have with my children is my number one priority.
The education I got was so pure. Everything was negotiable. Just one rule and one rule only: “If you think that you cannot tell me something, you better not go through with it at all!”. You know, that rule made me have no secrets for my parents. My boys have no secrets for me as well. They tell me things I ratter didn’t know about. They are so honest, so pure. We share it all.
As for my mom, she became my goddess. It took me years to find that balance. I had just lost my best friend, the one I could tell my biggest secrets to. The one that would tell me the hard truth. The one I could trust. The one that gave me sincere compliments. The one I would and will love for ever. I now know that my mom is the one taking over. I feel that I had been too much for her. I’m a copy of my dad. I’ve been tough on her, still she always stood by me. No matter what I chose as my new path. Both personally and professionally.
I now know what the positive things are about this goodbye. And I am grateful. Grateful of being the daughter of an extraordinary man. Have learned how to bond with your kids. And most of all … having those wonderful memories!
© Vicky Drappier