This week I was invited by a production team in New York to record a podcast to discuss, amongst other things, how my outlook on life has changed since my cancer diagnosis. Over the course of the interview my words strayed to my father. As many of you know, he lost his own cancer battle just one month ago.
Moments later I had to stop the recording. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Grief. This is what it does to me. It hits me at the most unexpected times, winding me with a pain that’s almost physical.
Two weeks ago I spoke at my father’s crematorium service. It wasn’t a eulogy as such, more my own personal reflection of a man who has shaped every aspect of my life.
Writing it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, yet my words needed no encouragement. No hard smack on the bottom of a jar of inspiration. He was a man who filled his life with people and memories. A man who I miss every single day.
This is what I wrote:
Stubborn. Talented. Loved. My father was all of these things and more. He was the laughter in the car on the way to school and the noisy chef who made more mess in the kitchen than my children. He was my fiercest champion. My roots and my wings. My hero. The impression that he’s left on my life is like a second skin. Forever moulded to me. Forever present.
My father and I were similar and this is something that I’ve grown to be proud of. Perhaps a little too similar in some ways… Neither of us could have predicted our cancer diagnoses, and certainly not within the same year. I’m left fighting this battle on my own now, his loss ever more acute to me. Still, I can feel him urging me on, just like he used to do from the touchlines of one of my Lacrosse matches, “pick your feet up, Catherine! Run faster! Survive.”
Then there’s another scene. A more vibrant one that is ever present when I close my eyes. I’m eight years old. I’m sitting on a patio chair in the South of France, dodging the flying ants and stuffing my face with bread as the sun floods the skyline with burnt amber hues. The crickets are deafening but they’re no match for my father. He’s in the kitchen singing his heart out to Fleetwood Mac, his deep baritone making my mother smile. He’s cooking Moules Mariniere again because he knows it’s my favourite, and because no one can make it like he can.
My father was unique. He was so much to so many. A man as generous with his time as he was with his love, and at the heart of it all was his family.
Gone but never forgotten.