A time of transition: to love, honour and cherish until death do us part

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Love leaves a memory no one can steal - CancerGoddess.co.uk

"Love leaves a memory no-one can steal"

- unmarked headstone, Ireland

As we dance through life, we know with utmost certainty that there will come a time when we must say goodbye to our loved ones, to our physical body, to all that we know as our reality. We can escape many things, yet death is a natural part of our cycle of life. We are born, we create, we play, we dance, we laugh, we cry, we love, we eat, we pray, we sing ... and ultimately, we will die.

Cancer can make death feel a little bit more confrontational, a little bit more real, than we would perhaps like. That word. Cancer - whether you are a patient, supporter or medical professional - brings death to the forefront of our minds like no other word can.

I recently discovered that no amount of preparation or intuitive knowing can ever truly prepare us for the loss of a loved one. Especially when it is from a disease that has such a personal connection.

No amount of reading, no matter how much talky-talk with professionals, spiritual advisors or friends, nor the pulling up of my heart-wall drawbridge in readiness, prepared me for the final moments of watching someone I love fade away.

Although the numbness and rawness of grief surrounds us as a family, at times I discover with great surprise that I can reflect over the last few upsetting months and smile through the grey veil of sadness and tears.

For deep down amongst the pain, the agony and the heartache that each consultant appointment triggered in all of us, each pang of scanxiety, was always the strong foundation of love. A deep, abiding love and respect for someone I felt incredibly proud to cheekily, lovingly call 'Pappa'.

Charming, humble, wise, well-respected and very caring, he loved to entertain friends and family. A truly gentle gentleman, who treated every day as a gastronomic feast-day; simple ingredients cooked with Italian passion and love. Despite him being unexpectedly poorly and in hospital over Christmas, I was given his blessing to enter his kitchen on Christmas Day - a BIG thing for a professional chef to let anyone into his domain! - to prepare and cook Christmas dinner.

The nursing staff on the ward were visibly touched by the devotion of his wife, who stayed beside him 24/7; of the love from his children which was so apparent as we trotted in daily - for hours at a time - to keep spirits up as much as physically possible.

I may have lost many friends and some close family members over the years to cancer, yet I feel incredibly humbled and blessed to have witnessed such a graceful, peaceful passing from this life to the next. A textbook-perfect passing, if such a thing could ever exist.

This courageous lion-hearted man chose his perfect moment to let go; waiting for all the pieces in the puzzle of family-life to be in place, so that his beloved wife, son and daughter would be supported by two people in the hospital room who loved all of them well enough - and had the emotional strength - to look after them, once he took his last breath.  I was one of the 'other' two: almost-family, yet not connected by blood.

So now we find ourselves in a time of transition. Busying ourselves with funeral arrangements; trying to keep on keeping on. Occasionally we stumble. Funny memories pop up and we find ourselves laughing gently at odd moments. Yet Pappa's traditional wedding vows of 'to have and to hold; to love, honour and cherish until death do us part' will continue through his family's hearts.

Thank you for allowing me into your heart, Pappa. Thank you for allowing me to support you as best as I could during your brave battle these last 9 months. Thank you for being you. I find it hard to believe I can no longer call you with an upbeat "Good morning, my darling. How are you?", and hear the smile in your voice even when you were at the lower end of the "Oh, not so good ... not so bad" scale.

May your bright light and genuine love and appreciation for everyone you meet continue to burn brightly, kept alive with gazillions of happy memories ~ Rest well, my darling. Buona notte.

In loving memory of my funny, smart, kind and sweet-natured father-in-law, we have set up a fundraising page for the Lymphoma Association. He always put others first, and we hope that donations will help make a difference to other Lymphoma patients, families and supporters. Please kindly share his fundraising page, if you feel it appropriate - your kindness is much appreciated by us all.
Cancer Goddess
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