It is hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since he left. The trip had been a last-minute decision, and in the end we only saw each other for a few hours. Then I kissed him and told him I loved him, and walked out the door. It was the last time I saw him.
I had seen relationships end before, and had experienced heartbreak. This was no different: the chasm hurt like a physical wound. I sat and sobbed to my friends on the phone, bewildered by my abandonment. Despite the anguish it caused me, I continued to talk incessantly about him – even his presence in a conversation was better than nothing. The feeling of closeness I experienced when talking about him almost dulled the pain of losing him, if only for a few minutes.
One thing was different though. When my heart had been broken in the past, my feelings of rejection were difficult to separate from the hurt of the relationship ending. This time all I had to contend with was the knowledge that I would never see him again: I know he loved me. He told me enough times, and more than that, for almost 40 years he demonstrated it in everything he did. He was my father and he loved me. I was his daughter. Nobody could change that.
One year on, on the other side of the planet, I sit with a glass of red wine by the fire, candles glowing in the silence of the evening. This day last year, this very minute, I sat by his bed and watched him drift in and out of sleep. Now he is gone. The treasure of those last hours fills my memories, and the reliving of that night makes me feel close to him still. It is worth the pain I feel to recall the look on his face when he woke in his hospital bed to see me arriving with my little suitcase on wheels, a smile of joy for me despite his suffering. “Ah, Maiready!” He was the only one who ever called me that.
I remember that I went back one last time to kiss him goodnight again, to tell him I loved him again. I didn’t know then that it would be the last time, but it gives me comfort to think back on that impulse now. Nothing was left unsaid.
Today is no different than any other day really. He cannot be more in my thoughts than he has been every day in the past year. I could not miss him more than I have missed him since that day. But still I sit and relive the events of a year ago. It is my way of honouring him I suppose: no church visits for me, no grave to stand beside. For a short time, my sorrow will again be eclipsed by my bittersweet memory of the last time I saw his face. He was my father. I am his daughter and I love him.