In 2009 my father was diagnosed with bowel cancer. By the time it was discovered, it had metastasised to his lungs. He was given an average of 18 months to live, but optimistically told me “I’m hoping for five years”.
He wasted no time and embraced life, travelling and learning to paint (prolifically). Despite this we were always clear that he did not want the end of this process to be strung out and his wish for euthanasia was clear. In 2015, six years after his diagnosis I lost my dad. Despite his wishes, he was not euthanized. His cancer had spread further and a brain tumour had been discovered.
His deterioration was rapid and distressing to us all. None more so though, than to himself.
The loss of his independence, to be able to walk and leave the house was devastating to him.
Until his last week he was entirely cognisant of all that was happening.
After a night watching the rugby on TV, I wheeled him to his room and helped him into the bed that he would never again get out of. He soon lost the ability to swallow. While we couldn’t euthanize him, we didn’t have to prolong his life. He stayed at home and wasted away, his body shutting down without fluids. A large man, this went on for over a week before he finally opened his eyes and exhaled deeply.
My father embraced his life and the time he had, but that final week was a terrible and unnecessary trauma for him and the whole family who cared for him around the clock. The name of your organisation resonated strongly with me. Immediately following his death I wrote a poem in reflection of the experience (below) entitled ‘go gentle’ and I share this with you today.
Go Gentle - 2015
To ask “do not go gentle into that good night”,
Is to never have experienced that humbling sight.
Do not rage, do not fight.
The brave go gentle into that good night.
Go with humor.
Muster strength not to fight, but to smile.
Leave us as you were, as you will be forever in our hearts.
Save your words, we feel what you think.
We need not a final prophecy, words of comfort, wisdom or advice.
Our comfort comes from your integrity.
Our wisdom from your life.
Let your eyes close.
You are still here and we as well.
We still think of you
Care for you.
One final tear.
Shed for kindness.
For our thoughts,
Fade away, fade away.
Your integrity remains,
A final breath.
Eyes open wide, a final time.
We your final sight.
Go gentle into this good night.
Go gentle into that good night;
Do not burn,
Do not rave,
Do not rage,
Do not fight.
Fade away with integrity
Brave eyes open for a final sight and go gentle into that good night.