Saturday 14th October 2000 is a day I will never forget. I was sixteen years of age at the time, just a boy really. My father had earlier been advised by his GP to visit our local hospital for routine blood tests after waking in the night with chest pains. While undergoing examination at the hospital my father’s heart suddenly stopped, he was now left desperately fighting for his life. Despite a brief recovery, in the hours that followed he went on to have a second and then a third and final heart attack before finally passing away in the early hours of the morning at the age of fifty years. He left behind four children Michelle, Lisa, John and I.
Until now I have never had the strength or the courage to speak about this day, not even amongst my closest friends and family, the sense of loss has been too profound. How tragically ironic that a day so personally poignant in my life can be buried so deep within my soul never to have been shared with the very people I love most. I guess many of you will relate, perhaps on some level it’s instinctual, to avoid at all costs the source of your pain. With age however I have gradually come to appreciate that in fact such vows of silence only serve to intensify your grief to the point where you become a prisoner of your own emotions.
I still torment myself wondering if there was something I could have done to have saved my father from his untimely death. I say this because as his next of kin my siblings and I were not only having to rapidly process this tragically unforeseen event but in the absence of an Advance Decision or LPA we were also being consulted by the medical team about my father’s treatment while on life support. I don’t think I have ever really comprehended the magnitude of this predicament. I mean how is a sixteen year old boy to balance his desire to keep his father alive with his desire to protect his father from suffering? How does he distinguish between his own wishes and those of his father?
It is for this reason I am immensely proud to champion Compassion in Dying who are actively raising awareness of End of Life Rights amongst older people in London. Having attended one of their training sessions myself I felt inspired to break free of my own vow of silence by publicly sharing my personal story in the hope that it might go some way to breaking down the wider social vow of silence which continues to surround the narrative of death and dying. This unfortunately comes too late for my father and that is a wound I bear as his son but in his memory let this blogpost be a gentle reminder to others that now is the time to both understand your rights and make your wishes known for what you consider to be a compassionate death.
Postscript from us . . . .we are delighted that Darren is helping to champion the work we do, and are very much looking forward to working with him again. Do visit his blog, and can we take this moment to say a thank you to Darren for sharing his very moving story with us.
Talking about death and planning for end of life is a subject that not everyone feels comfortable talking about. People often don’t, until it’s too late, but we hope by sharing stories like Darren’s more people will start talking about what they want. If you would like to know more about our work, or would like to talk to someone about your rights and how you can make your wishes known then ring us today on 0800 999 2434 or visit the Contact Us page.