The day you left…


With your two-year anniversary arriving tomorrow, I am back at the beginning. I am back at the moment when time itself froze, when nothing mattered, nothing made sense, nothing felt clear, nothing felt safe. I am back in the day you left this earth.

I remember being woken in the early hours of the morning it was just gone 3am when my Sister ran into the room I was sleeping in to tell me our Dad had gone. I remember sitting up and within that moment feeling every ounce of air that circulates my body being taken away from me. I couldn’t breathe, I felt suffocated, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t think, I didn’t understand. Of course, I knew he was dying, he had been so ill for so long and had been on end-of-life care for almost 7 weeks, so I knew this was inevitable, but that didn’t make it any easier to understand right then in that moment, how someone can be there one moment and then with one breath, simply gone.

Walking down the stairs I could hear the sobs coming from the living room where his hospital bed was. Everything was so quiet yet so loud all at the same time. Everything felt so heavy but so free, the weight on my heart that he had really gone combined with the peace I felt that he’d no longer have to suffer, I have never felt so much at once in my entire life, and then I saw him…

He was laid in the same position that I kissed him goodnight only a few hours before. I looked at his chest as I’d done so much over the past 7 weeks to see that it no longer rose and fell.  I looked at his face to see every part of him that had held on for so long had truly left. He was no longer my Dad, that part had gone, there was no brightness, no life.  All that remained was a case, a beautiful case that had carried someone so deeply precious.

I remember looking across the room and seeing my brother sat sobbing, his head in his hands, his world fallen to his feet. Seeing my Mum laid with her head still resting on my Dad’s chest with tears rolling down her cheeks, gripping onto his hand in a hope that her touch might somehow bring him back. Seeing my sister-in-law gently cradling my newborn son Gabriel, as comfort not just for her, but for me too. Hearing my Sister crying in the bathroom using the sound of the water and the music she played to drown out the agony in her tears, it was too much. The way we not only grieve for ourselves but also for others is immense, I never in a million years knew how that would feel until that moment.

We had a contact list prepared, one we had sat down and written together stating who would call who when it was time. Who would call my Dad’s Mum, his Sisters, his Friends. When we planned it, we based it on our relationships with those people, who felt most comfortable, who held that connection. When we allocated names it all seemed so easy, it felt simple…make the call… tell them he’s gone…. But nothing prepared me for those calls, nothing prepared me to hear the screams down the phone from my auntie at 5am in the morning that day, nothing prepared me for how my words would crush them all in that one single moment. Calling my Grandad is a memory I still replay to this day, the alarmed “hello” leading onto his voice trembling because he knew why I was calling so early. The way, within seconds, those words fell to the force of immense pain, that devastated me.

I remember my Mum asked for some final time alone with our Dad, so we all went upstairs to give her that space. We could have gone into our individual bedrooms taking some time of our own, yet instead we all just naturally joined together on the landing, crammed into one tiny space, laid across one another, no words spoken, no movement from any of us. It felt safe, it felt as though we were cubs laid in our den, nothing could touch us, together we were strong.

Watching his body being carried out of our house destroyed me, worrying if he was still alive and we had somehow been wrong, that he could be suffocating inside the bag they’d put him in ran through my mind repeatedly. Seeing my Mum fall into my husband’s arms, out on the street, consumed by soul-destroying agony. The pain that shot through her at that moment, seeing the man she loved more than anything in this world being driven away, it was all too much.

The rest of the day felt like a haze, exhausted from pain, numb to the fact I was still crying, nothing felt important any longer, everything hurt, everything had changed. And this lasted for a long time. I felt little point in anything, no light, just darkness. Darkness from the absence of him, darkness from the pain. This day is as vivid to me now, as it was when it happened, it’s like living it all over again, every single pain, every single tear, it hurts.

See now in my grief I am in a much stronger place, time has taught me that my emotions are all valid. It’s taught me it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to feel the pain, I’m safe to travel back to those last moments that I laid by his side, those last moments I kissed him goodnight, it’s ok to feel it all, it hurts but it’s ok. As time moves on  I’m almost reminded more and more of my reason to power forward with him no longer by my side. Yes it is hard still and yes I will still go back to those days filled with painful memories, but I know my power now. I know who I choose to be within this journey, and that is someone who will make my Dad proud, feeling every emotion, letting every memory sit in its rawness, letting every moment be a reminder of the reason to move forward each and every day.

The day he left changed my whole world, I am not who I was when he was here, that girl has gone. So much has changed, so much has evolved, and in many ways, I am deeply accepting of that. I am stronger because I am surviving with this pain, I am wiser because of the lessons he’s left with me, I am brighter because of the love he continues to shine down to me, and for that, I am eternally grateful to you Dad.

Using all you taught us, using all your light you left with us, we will build again on the broken foundations that fell that day. As you taught us so well… Embrace, enjoy, evolve.

To you tomorrow Dad,

I love you, endlessly.


Simon Gale

16.02.1960 – 18.03.2019


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1 Comment

    March 18, 2021

    This piece blows me away Phoebe, so raw, so real and beautiful in its expression….this is life


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