Losing a parent or both your parents is something most of us will have to deal with in life.
That journey will be different for us all, and like with many things in life, there are no set rules, no training manuals, and no guaranteed outcomes.
I had come to Australia out of a sense of duty to take care of my parents at a time when their ailing bodies needed support physically, emotionally and spiritually.
I had little idea what I was getting myself into. I’m sure they didn’t know either. I have written this book through my eyes, sharing my feelings as close to the authentic truth as I lived them every single day with my father and the rest of my family.
I will commence my reflection by sharing this. I have no regrets at all about coming to Australia to play my part in this process. I had little idea beforehand what it meant to be a full-time caretaker, how difficult it actually is, and the outcome that the process would have on me and my life.
I had, with a great sense of hope, envisaged that I could use this time with my parents to build a bridge in our relationship to at least gain respect for each other and put to rest some of the distant feelings that resulted over many decades of being apart.
I was wrong.
What transpired was an enormous amount of respect and love for my father. In his last twenty-five days, I lived the life and connection I had always wanted with my dad.
I had waited fifty years for those moments and what saddens me the most today is that while we did have those precious days together, there were 18,548 days where we did not have any of that love.
My father, in that short time, perhaps because of his vulnerability, was able to open his soul just enough to give his son a peek into his inner workings. It was hard for him, as my father had not done that before with anyone in his life.
He had been like many of his generation: emotionally controlled, guarded, and socially awkward in many circumstances. His ability to take pending death in his stride, to remain upbeat and jovial for the majority of time anyone was around him left me with a huge amount of respect and love for the man he had become.
The time we spent together also allowed me to see inside my father’s soul as well as my mother’s. Since my arrival in Australia and even after Dad’s death, my mother and I seemed to continue to grow further apart.
Our relationship had been strained for decades and I had spent the majority of my life living around the world without the thoughts of a mother figure in my life. To this day, I have friends whose mothers have showed me a greater degree of love more than my own mother was ever capable of doing.
I do not deny that my mother loves me. My mother, like my father, had and still has an impregnable emotional wall embedded into her DNA. No matter what I tried over those decades, I was never successful in breaking down that wall.
During my time with my parents, we had some horrendous fights and screaming matches where she and I both lost control. Nasty and hurtful words were hurled around the house during those upsetting moments.
But I also saw this as a chance for me to learn about who I was, why I was so angry and so triggered by this woman I call my mother.
One of the things I did when I came back to Australia was to start a Men’s Group. A safe space where men from all backgrounds could gather once a week to share their life issues.
The group grew rapidly and before I knew it we were meeting twice a week.
It was through this safe and non-judgmental environment that I learnt I was not alone. 99% of the men who attended this group had ‘mother issues’. I started to listen and learn how I could work on myself and how I needed to change my repeating cycles toward my mother if things were ever going to change.
As these sessions unfolded, I became to see a way or some would say the light when it came to managing my anger and resentment towards Mum.
After my father’s passing, my mother repeatedly behaved in a way that showed me her true colours. These were things I had known about her for a long time, things that even those closest to her could never imagine or even perhaps believe, and they kept resurfacing.
I am not going to share those things here. I do not intend to throw my mother under the bus. She is still alive as I write this book, and I want her to live the rest of her life in peace.
As the celebration of my father’s life through his Bowls Club, his cremation, and a few other meaningful events concluded, I decided to remove myself from my family’s life.
Shortly after, my mother moved into an aged care facility. My sister, who was mostly absent through my father’s illness, went into overdrive in making sure Mum’s future was not secure and that she had everything she wanted.
I worked on finding peace with my mother, forgiving her for the lifetime of pain I had felt, acknowledging that she was a victim too, as her own brutal upbringing had created this mentality that she adopted first into her marriage, then into many of the superficial relationships she had throughout her life and with a son she probably wished she never had.
I have arrived in a beautiful place now, some years after Dad’s passing. But whilst my forgiveness for her is in totality, I will never forget. As such, I no longer participate in her life and I certainly will not allow her to participate in mine.
It is only now after unsuccessfully mending my relationship with her, have I been able to fully turn the corner. After much deep and serious internal work on myself, I have found peace, serenity, and love again in my life. Love like I never thought possible. Love that I never thought myself capable of.
Therefore, my message is this.
There are so many cliches around. ‘You can’t choose your family’ is one of those, and it is true. You can however choose what impact a negative family environment has on you, and you can choose to walk away from that.
I was unfortunately born into a family that wasn’t the right fit for me. I am no longer angry about that. I am consoled and grateful as many life lessons have been imparted. I am also grateful that the rest of my life is in my hands now and I can make love the cornerstone of life like it has not been before.
I know what I am truly capable of giving to another human being, and I know upon meeting that right person as I have that the future in every aspect of my life is looking nothing but glorious.
There is so much hardship in so many families across the world. There is a common belief that families should always stick together. I am not a believer in that notion. Sometimes things are just wrong, and it takes a very courageous person to stand up and say 'no more’.
I said ‘no more’. I said I am responsible to myself and to be around the people who are capable of loving me in a way that I feel that love. I deserve as much as the next person does when it comes to respect.
In saying that, so does my mother and my sister.
I wish nothing but the best for them, in whatever life has in store.
I no longer need or want to take on the world alone. I have someone now who loves me for who I am, who supports and embraces my dreams, and who accepts my love in the way that I am openly desiring to share it.
When it comes to relationships, it has been a long time since I used the word ‘harmony’ to explain the way I feel about anyone. I have a small group of friends around the world that I would take a bullet for; they know who they are, and that’s all that matters to me.
In building my future, I am already committed to being the most awesome version of myself, in my personal relationship, and in any business ventures I continue to develop.
I am using my incredible experience with my father to fuel my passion in all kinds of ways because my father was a man who died with the music inside him.
I have learnt many valuable lessons from those last twenty-five days.
I will NOT die with the music in me.
I will not stay in any relationship with anyone who disrespects me and who can not be emotionally and spiritually connected.
I have stopped blaming others for the hardships I believed I have endured. I am not a victim and I have taken back my power that once upon a time my mother held over me. No more, never.
I will rise every day and give thanks to my father in teaching me that it is never too late to change your view of the world and when it comes time for my own life to end I will be making sure that I will be doing something that I love, with the person I love.
Thanks to my father, there are no more excuses. I knew all along that I will one day do something to change the lives of many, and now in all of my endeavours I will, and have committed like never before to serving others with my talents and skills.
I will continue to live a minimalistic life, focusing more on the closeness, and that love I have and the memories I will create. The love for myself and the respect for my soul will be the cornerstone of everything I do.
There is also an acknowledgment that I would like to share around the incredible hospital staff across both hospitals that my father resided in not only for his last twenty-five days, but during all the admissions he endured prior to that.
The compassion shown by strangers toward my father restored my faith in humanity. It showed me that those who are the most in our society truly deserve the greatest remuneration and accolades. We have seen this in full force during COVID-19.
I would also like to acknowledge the amazing camaraderie shown to my father from the community at the Robina Bowls Club on the Gold Coast in Australia. To every man and woman who plays at the club, thank you for making my Dad feel so special, and thank you for awarding me with the invitation to attend such a heartwarming wake in his memory. You are truly lovely people.
To those who read this book, who at some stage or another visited my parents or supported them in all kinds of amazing ways, thank you. Your love and kindness are appreciated on every level.
My father’s passing opened the door for me on so many levels. To witness first-hand the last days of someone’s life and to see in so many dimensions of what the end-of-life process is all about is a gift known not only to myself.
Grieving is certainly a strong emotion and my grieving process for my father was intense as it was short. I realised that my father was better off where he finds himself today; away from illness, away from exhaustion and away from judgement. I believe he is truly at peace.
In writing this book, I did not set out to prove a point, to seek some kind of therapeutic result, or to harm anyone or anything. I merely wanted to share what was ultimately a very deep and meaningful period of my life. A period we often don’t get to talk about, learn, or grow from.
I feel all three things have occurred to me and as such, I would like to thank you for coming on this journey with me.
I am sure that many of you have been reminded of your own experiences when it came to losing someone close. For that, I am sorry. I am not here to open old wounds, but maybe this is an opportunity in your reflection to seek joy and peace from your own experiences.
My grandfather once said to me, “Mark, time is the keeper of the truth.” For the longest time, I never truly understood what he meant by that. Today, I find myself quoting his exact words every chance I get.
Time certainly is the keeper of the truth. More so how you feel or felt about someone, how someone treats you over time, and that karma ultimately sees good on all accounts.
My father and I shared similar traits in how we see life, how we don’t wish for anything grand, in either what we do, or in the people we associate with.
Complicated relationships and manufactured feelings serve nobody well. Since Dad’s passing, I committed to looking up at the night sky every night, to remind myself of that magical moment I had with my father, how no words were shared, yet I was still able to learn the lessons of the universe in no time at all.
We are all living in uncertain times, but what will always remain certain is our ability to love ourselves and our ability to love others. Those we love need not be living under the same roof, no, they can even be on the other side of the world.
If that love alone is embraced and shared with authenticity, then we will all inadvertently be making the world a better place.
It is on that very thought that I would like to finish this book, and to simply say:
The world is truly a beautiful place. The opportunity we have been given called life is a miracle and instead of seeking more miracles along our journey, if we all were to embrace and acknowledge and nurture that one simple miracle called life then we too will arrive at the end happy and contented.
The challenge is ours.
The opportunity is immense.
The clock is ticking for us all.
I send you all my love no matter where you are.