Wednesday, December 26, 2007


My Christmas was nothing of note. I received some lovely presents, had a wonderful meal and spent some valuable time with my girlfriend, but in terms of what I read this morning on the blondepoker forum, it was barely worth mentioning.

Unfortunately, not everyone had as enjoyable a Christmas as me. A good friend of mine, and fellow live updater, Rod 'Junglecat' Stirzaker, lost his father yesterday on Christmas Day. His mother lost her battle against cancer last Summer, so the poor guy has been orphaned in the space of several months.

Reading about his loss, it made me think about the irrelevance of a silly challenge to pay off the tax man and the value of money, which, as long as you are happy and have your family and friends around you, really isn't worth much in the grand scheme of things.

I hope he doesn't mind, but I've decided to reprint his thoughts on my blog so as to serve as a reminder that not everyone in the world had a happy Christmas. Please do take the time read it...

I'm not sure why I find myself writing this post but I feel like I need to get a little bit of stuff off my chest so I hope you will bear with me whilst I do.

2007 has not been a great year for me and my family. My mum died in the summer after a long, protracted battle against cancer. She beat it off twice but the third time proved one step too far and the aggressive chemotherapy she was treated with, left her weak, hairless and in pain during her last few moments. She was a very popular woman though my mum, and had her many friends and family round her bedside during all of her last moments on earth which was some comfort for our family as that is what she would have wanted.

Since my Mum's death, my dad has struggled a lot. He was very reliant on my mum in a lot of ways. His social life was built around what she organised, she cooked him healthy meals and provided a companion for him. My dad was always a very private man, a highly intelligent mathematician and physicist, he sometimes struggled to relate to other people as he found himself frustrated by their inabililty to grasp the complexities of science and philosophy as easily as he could. As a result he tended to have few friends and relied on my mum for much of his social contact. Once she was gone, he withered really, both mentally and physically. He was already in a fairly bad physical state, having had a triple heart bypass five years ago, and a gangrenous toe removed last year, caused by bad circulation brought about by diabetes.

In the last six months, whenever I travelled to london to visit him, he always emphasised that he didn't feel he had much time left. This is not a pleasant thing to hear from your own dad, but it proved prophetic...

Just under two weeks ago, he was admitted to hospital after being found wandering around ealing broadway confused and bewildered. The doctors ascertained he had suffered a heart attack but he was also suffering from an infection caused by a further recurrence of a gangrenous toe and perhaps most crucially, his kidneys were beginning to fail. He was treated well at hammersmith hospital but given the array of problems affecting his major organs and that most of the fight had been sucked out of him by my mum's death, it was clear that it was just a matter of time till he passed away.

That time arrived yesterday. Me and my older brother, with whom I was spending christmas, travelled up in the morning to see him at the hospital. We brought along some presents, intending to let him celebrate christmas as he had always enjoyed it immensely.

On arrival things looked bad. He was in a comatose state and the doctor explained that he felt my father was dying. I looked at my dad lying there. He had been an excellent sportsman in his youth, playing cricket and football at a high level, yet he now looked weak as a baby, with tubes poking out of various areas of him, struggling for breath and with several foul-looking, blackened, necrotic toes poking out of the end of his white bed sheets. An hour or so later, he took one last gasp, stopped breathing and as we all realised the futility of even trying to resuscitate him, I cried for the first time since my mum had died six months ago.

Various things went through my head as I stared at his lifeless body...I remembered my dad suppporting me when I was younger, taking me to Judo for 15 years, watching proudly as I played rugby for my school and London Welsh. I remembered stupid things he had done like showing off to us when we were kids by pretending to shove a prickly piece of coral into his head, before misjudging it and connecting, leaving him yelping and running off to fetch a bandage to stem the bleeding whilst me and my brother rolled around in fits.

I also felt some guilt at not having been there for him more during the six months after my mum's death. I remembered one occasion where I went to see him in this time. Typically when i travelled back to london, I would cook a roast dinner for my dad as he loved that, and didn't have the culinary skill required to ever make a meal like that for himself.

This time though, I felt tired and sleepy and couldn't be bothered to make a full roast so I just made some cheese on toast, knowing my dad wouldn't complain and would like it, but also knowing he would far prefer the roast.

Looking back at this, i felt so guilty and selfish that I didn't put more effort in. I really wish I'd made the roast now.

I feel slightly numbed now as I struggle to contemplate that both my parents are gone. I guess really I am lucky that I still have two brothers, who I am very close to.

I'm not typically given to coming out with maudlin, self-indulgent revelations like the one above but I felt like I needed to put this out in print, just to give some airing to the complex, conflicting swirl of emotions going on beneath me.

Although the tone of above is somewhat grey and depressing, I do feel that some good things have been highlighted in the last few days.

After we finished up at the hospital, myself, my older brother and his wife drove back to his house in maidenhead where I made a big roast with all the trimmings. As I cooked the meal I was attacked by my young nephew and niece, 3years and 18 months old respectively.

Although I haven't seen loads of my niece since she was born, she seems to have a strong bond with me and kept running over requesting to be picked up so she could fall asleep on my shoulder. I watched Alex and Simone fighting over their presents and generally running around like lunatics, screaming , shouting and clearly having a brilliant time and I thought that would have been exactly what me and my brothers would have done 25 years ago or so...

Life goes on. For the two deaths of my parents there are the two new lives of my brother's kids, exuberant and eager to take on all the challenges of the world. At a somewhat depressing time, these sparks of joy shone a light into the darkness I was feeling and went some way to turning my tears of sadness into smiles. At this moment after the past year, there is no price you can put on this, and no words that can relay the comfort the two little people have given me.

Thanks Alex and Simone and RIP my Mum and Dad, two of the best people I've ever met.


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