So 2018 is now in the rear-view mirror—and good riddance to it. While I did make some progress on personal stuff last year, it was overshadowed by my Dad's terminal illness and the stress and strain of caring for him.
He passed away peacefully in the early hours of the 22nd December, at home with his family around him, as he had wished.
He had put in place an Advance Directive (also known as a Living Will) to cover the eventuality of his no longer being able to communicate his wishes. An end-of-life care package had been prepared by our GP and the local district nurses, and it was started the day before, on the Winter Solstice, at my mother's request. (We had already planned ahead at the end of last year, and myself, my mother and my sister had Lasting Power of Attorney so we could handle Dad's affairs once he was no longer able to.)
We have had so much support over the last year, albeit with some pushing required by my Mum to get it in place. Care agency workers visited several times a day to help care for Dad, and we had overnight respite so that both myself and my Mum could get some sleep. District nurses checked Dad's condition and helped organise additional assistance. Our local doctor's surgery also supported us, and pushed to make sure things were followed up on by other agencies. We had medical equipment and other aids supplied to help made Dad as comfortable as possible. Even the little things, like the chiropodist who would call every so often to trim Dad's nails, were welcome.
It took a few days to adjust to the changes once he was gone. The biggest was that the house was a lot quieter, not just because fewer people were calling around or phoning during the day, but because the oxygen machine that had been running continuously for over a year and a half was silent now.
In a way, we’ve already mourned over the months and weeks leading up to Dad’s passing. That is both a blessing and a curse of a terminal illness, as a friend pointed out to me.
Now, I’m getting comfortable with having music playing again, without worrying about not hearing the doorbell or the telephone.
There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up. The Christmas break has meant a delay in getting things moving, but they are moving now, in fits and starts. The people we’ve dealt with so far, either on the phone or in person, have been helpful and sympathetic. My parents had taken steps to tidy up and simplify their financial affairs as much as possible, and made a point of having relevant paperwork filed away ready for when it would be needed. So now it’s just a case of going through the various steps and waiting for the insurance, investments and pensions companies to do their parts. I am helping my Mum to work out how much she will have each month to live on, but the initial outlook is good. We will all be doing some belt-tightening, but that is probably a good thing anyway since there is a lot of uncertainty ahead due to the state of the country and the wider world.
There was some good news for me in 2018. I’ve started getting to grips with my finances, and I am earning more money now than I was at the start of last year. Writing in a private journal has helped me to process my thoughts and record the positive as well as the negative in my life. Changes to my eating habits and increased exercise has allowed me to lose some weight. And I’m finally starting to knuckle down on my habits of procrastination and lack of direction.
I’m looking to carry all of that forward into this year, and build on that success. I have a lot of personal projects that I can now block out time for, which will help me to grow even more. More regular blogging is definitely a part of that.
I know that some of the above may not make for comfortable reading, but I feel that more people need to talk openly about the end of life and not view it as a taboo subject. I am glad that I was able to be with my Dad at the end, and help him to die with dignity and in peace.