Loss

! This post was written long ago. What you're reading is not necessarily how I feel about things in 2017. This blog was started by an 18-year-old in 2001. Please, keep that in mind before you freak out.

This story features a somewhat disturbing and graphic description of death, atheist statements and an insulting word or two against some former friends, some friends of former friends and someone who will, I hope, come to his senses and remain a friend. If you're too weak to read it, do not read it.

Some would ask me why I wrote this. Death is not pretty. The process of losing someone is not pretty. However, if you come accross a sincere story on how it goes, perhaps you'll be able to handle it yourself. And me? I would never want to get to the point where I'm too weak to help others.

My mother and I have been left alone a week ago. My father, who was still driving around, telling jokes, carrying groceries and arguing with me over my sleeping patterns come August, melted away within six weeks and left us on 02nd October. After surviving radiation poisoning in 1986, aneurysm in 1995, high voltage in 1999 and a strong heart attack in 2009; he lost the battle to cancer. Metastatic brain cancer. The one where the survival rate is 2.3 months on average.

We always knew, and he said so himself, that he won't reach some spectacular age. His one-year-younger wife and three-year-older sister outlived him. Long before this, he'd say that I should take good care of mom when he dies, if he was in a good mood; and he'd say that I'll ruin mom when he dies, if he was in a bad mood. But what I wanted is to give him all the love, care and support to live for as long as it's possible. I hope I did so. I really do hope so.

My dad was hit by the wrong star in April 1986 when he was fishing and he never thought about that much, despite the fact that it gave him swollen lymph nodes for a couple of weeks and that he needed a pretty strong antibiotic. He was told about risks. He had a shadowy stain on the bottom of his right lung come 1990, but a doctor he spoke to was a freshly specialised cardiologyst who apparently insulted him by asking him if he, by any chance, had TBC and didn't know it.

He also didn't think about how much he's eating and, boy, he loved salty, greasy and gross stuff...such as aspics with smoked meat. And he was a heavy smoker. He didn't want to stop after his father died from pneumonia and tobacco-related complications, he didn't want to stop where he finally got a child of his own in 1983.

As a little girl, I once put an unlit cigarette in my mouth and I was spitting for 5 minutes after that. It was nasty. I started throwing packs of dad's smokes from the balcony, but he'd only make me go and pick them up from the neighbours' back yard. He'd blow smoke in my face and laugh as I was coughing. I kept on repeating as there was no chance I'd ever smoke and he'd say that his sister used to say she was allergic to tobacco and now she's a smoker.

It seems as if he was waiting for it. This is southeastern Europe. There literally is a cloud of smoke above this area. Greeks, Hungarians, the whole of ex-YU and Turkey...the countries with most smokers in the world. In my class at the elementary school (ages 6-14 or 7-15) nobody was a smoker; but in high school, there were many. At the university, too...so much that I'd have tears in my eyes and allergic reactions from climbing up the stairs to the aula on the fifth floor. I believe I said rude things to smokers on a couple of occasions, too. There were even those sporadic cases of girls starting to smoke because they thought it was sexy. Guys? I assume they were thinking it was macho.

So, dad thought I'd be a smoker. Dad thought I'd be like everyone else and at least be a social drinker. When I was 16, he refused to get me a new bicycle though mine had a manufactoring error; because "I'll soon be dressing differently and chasing boys and I won't care about my bicycle". When I'd be late home or sneak out to secretly get a bottle of cola or some snacks, he'd assume I have a boyfriend that I won't tell him about. Both he and mom, influenced by him, were scared of letting me attend my friends' parties because "someone would bring alcohol". Later on, learning that I was somewhat fascinated by a former notorious drug user, the two of my parents were almost spying on Mira and me, because we were laughing too much. Dad thought it's got to be drugs or alcohol. Mom thought it was drugs that fascinated me when it comes to that person. Years later, seeing that I'm still straight-edge and probably more influential than anyone who'd even try to influence me, she's pretending she never thought that. Funny enough, most of the valuable advice that made me more stable actually came from someone addicted to prescribed morphine; but somehow sane. But she has nothing to do with signore Fascinating.

Back to the story. Dad quit smoking cold turkey weeks before his stroke, as he felt strong pain in his chest. Before that, he kept on saying that he will never quit. Then he'd say that he'll quit only if mom and I go on a diet, as he had a vision that a woman's weight has to be height - 110, not height - 100. He also kept on repeating the story about his grandfather, a lifelong smoker, who was killed when a bus crashed into his bike, at the age of 87.

He just didn't think it could happen to him, that cancer. Even after the stroke, he used to joke that cancer was the only thing he never had. He had fun names for it ("Rakočević", "Kraba") and he considered most people to be too paranoid about it. And after he recovered from the stroke, which left him with 9 platinum stents in his body, he was like a refurbished machine for a while: taking long walks, fishing from a boat in the countryside, whistling while climbing the stairs, his face glowing as if he were a young man.

In August 2009, we were shopping at a monstrously large supermarket and he hit his toe against some wood. Twice within five minutes. The pain persisted. He went to various doctors. Some thought it was gangrena and scared us, as he already lost a toe next to the one he fit from high voltage-induced necrosis. Some thought it was fungi. It hurt him for six months. Sometimes he couldn't sleep. I'd bump into him solving crosswords in the kitchen. He'd offer to make cappuccino. I'd help him find the words he was looking for. Our tough relationship, which was even violent at times, was changing. We'd look at the sunrise. I'd go buy the first morning paper and fresh pastry, hot, straight from the bakery. By the time mom would wake up, the tensions would rise and we'd have our usual arguments at the breakfast table. But the serenity would come every now and then, more and more often.

And then he started coughing out old blood, sometimes new blood. His GP sent him to a lung specialist, who said it was pneumonia and gave him antibiotics. But things weren't changing. They suggested bronchoscopy and the man accross the street told dad not to do it, "because if it's cancer, the bronchoscopy equipment will spread it and kill you". The CT scan was clearly showing a lump on the bottom of the right lung, size of a table tennis ball. But it was only in early August that dad finally went to have his bronchoscopy done, a week after he drove us for a two-day holiday in the countryside.

They never really used the word cancer, they said it's a tumor and scheduled a military hospital stay from 03rd September on. Before going to hospital, he went fishing, he took us to all possible giant supermarkets and bought too much stuff, he cleaned all he could clean. At the hospital, he was literally using me as a walking aid. I thought he was just scared or that his neurological problems or his foot were causing him diziness.

For three days, patients were operated every day. Thoracic surgery seemed relatively simple...regardless of the subject being adhesions or removal of a whole lung. People were walking around carrying bottles full of liquid, they were watching the World Basketball Championship and smiling. Dad was too quiet and his operation kept on getting delayed. At some point, he passed out when going to the bathroom and he found it hard to solve crosswords. He was moved to semi-ICU and we were told that it was done in order to "get him ready for surgery". That sounded fishy, so my mother phoned the doctor and, with his colonel-ish apathy, he said: "Oh, I put him there because I am suspecting he might have metastasis on his cerebrum [little brain]."

We spent the night crying and holding hands. Dad was calm, happy, slowly managing to get up and use the bathroom again, and he was wondering why was the operation so late, as he wanted to go home, watch sports without having to be pushed to the common room in his bed and go fishing come next month. Instead of that, he got another CT scan, which proved doctor's doubts. I tricked the nurse into showing me results one day before he officially presented them to us and then I broke down. She said dad will be fine, but she also added that my mother looks so good and healthy and that she'll probably live to be 90 years old.

They did four sessions of radiotherapy and on the fourth day, they let dad go home. I thought there would have to be at least ten sessions. As dad was watching tennis and resting after he managed to climb the stairs to our flat on the second floor, helped out by two young friends; we thought things will be fine and that he'll have an appointment followed by chemo on 17th October. He felt sleepy, went to bed...

...and woke up a couple of hours later, babbling about "wanting to die at the hotel", calling my mom by my name and talking to her as if she were 5 years old. I phoned ER, they said it was just normal necrosis of brain cells. Excuse me...you just put necrosis and normal in the same sentence. Dad got up and came to watch more tennis. Janko Tipsarević and Nenad Zimonjić were playing against the Czech double. He said: "This is NOT Janko Tipsarević, it's some other man. Janko looks different!" I had no idea what to say. The necrosis could have been the answer, but...it's my daddy. This just cannot be happening.

Another person told us that the anti-nausea medicine can get people high. I wanted to believe that, especially since dad happily walked out of the room next morning, had his breakfast in the living room and sat in the armchair. But he didn't feel up for anything. Later on, he walked back to bed. I was walking in front of him so he could lean on me, and at some point, he almost cracked my neck. I weeped and he said that I was nothing but a piece of poo. Then he started falling over me...I only managed to push him to the side with my back, so he'd fall on the bed. He slowly climbed up to his pillow, his face still beautiful and his eyes still golden, as if nothing has ever happened.

And he never got up again. He did try once or twice, it ended with both lower legs on the floor, nothing more. From that day, 18th September, on, he was in a scary state of almost constant sleepiness and nobody actually told us if that's normal or not. Right before my eyes, someone was looking barely alive, barely talking, was constipated and couldn't move anything other than hands. Infusions would make him feel better. He'd listen to the news on radio and he'd ask me to buy him a LCD TV, so he could watch football. I said I would by the time I'm paid next, but his vision was decreasing, he found it harder to stay awake, he couldn't swallow anything other than milchreis, ice cream, fruit yoghurt, mashed potatoes and bananas.

Then there were odd moments, when he'd ask us when did we buy the armchair facing the bed. Mom'd shrug that off and claim it was so because the armchair was always covered with a blanket. I was worried. I knew the whole list of end of life signs by heart, ever since his stroke; and that looked like one. Pulling bed sheets on and off and playing with clothes looked like another. But I didn't want to believe it. A neurosurgeion said he gives him 5-15 days and he wanted to operate, but everything was booked in his own operation block and others were refusing to give it a go, saying that they wouldn't dare to operate on cerebrum. A hospice nurse that we got to come every day through a local charity said it's a matter of days, eventually weeks.

Two days before he died, he grabbed my hand and said: "Chemotherapy!" That was the last word he said out loud. From that moment on, it was mostly yes and no; and tears in his eyes. On Saturday at about four in the morning, he started having seizures. I was holding him in my arms, despite his weight and I noticed his shoulders were completely weak. Three hours and a couple of phone calls after, the ER came, only to give him dexamethasone and to tell me to let him go and let him lie down. I asked them if this is it, as I was brushing out a lot of fallen hair from my clothes, the doctor said that nobody knows. He was still breathing too fast, he had fever, despite being strangely cold and his blood pressure was getting too low to be detected.

We called my aunt and told her what's going on. She grabbed a taxi. We remembered the thoracic surgeon's words, he told us to bring dad back to the hospital if he starts breathing like this and we phoned ER. The male voice on the other side said "So, I have a child with a head injury here. AND WHAT DO YOU WANT AGAIN?". I told him to go to a nice place. Mom called again and some other operator told her that the ER needed a transportation request. I ran sprint to the nearest health centre and got the needed paper from a GP, after a nurse stopped me at the hall and said that children should use the other entrance. I told her that I was 27 and that my father is dying. When I came back, we phoned ER transport department again, and the male voice on the other side said, laughing, that we need an approval as well, not just the request. We phoned the military hospital itself, they explained that they don't transport civilians. We phoned a private clinic, they said they only transport healthy people. We phoned another, they said they'll be there in 20 minutes.

In the meantime, dad's breathing got slower. At first it was normal, then there were five second delays. Fifteen second delays. 30 second delays. As my mother and my aunt were panically running around the flat, I climbed up the bed and whispered to him...I told him that I am unwillingly letting him go, but that I forgive him everything and that I hope he forgives everything to me as well. He muttered a long, painful "Uuuuh!" and cried his last tear. I looked at two of our three trees outside and then back at him. His tongue rolled to the inside. His head turned to the side. He took one last breath and left us. I shook him, tried to move his chest for two more times. Then I just kissed him on the forehead and left the room. He was gone.

There were around 70 people at the funeral. I have never seen some of them before and some did not even introduce themselves. Some others, I saw them for the first time in over a decade. After the NATO bombing, many friendships faded, we became very modern, old ways got forgotten, old slow friendships became fast, cafes became trendier than homes and unbreakable chains were getting rusty. But for one cold rainy morning in October, everyone was suddenly there, shaking hands and hugging my mother, aunt, my first cousin and me. And it was the 10th anniversary of the world-famous bulldozer revolution, too!

There was the stupid priest singing praises to god, backed up by a man with an incredible voice. I kept on repeating fuck your god through my teeth and I did not want to do anything Christian when we were told to kiss the cross and say goodbye to the coffin. I hugged it and said: "Dad, I thought this was about you, and not about their imaginary friend, god. I'm sorry we brought them here. You were nobody's humble slave, you were my father and that's bigger than any known god to me."

I closed my eyes and covered mom's eyes as the coffin was going back underneath the boards. That scared me less than the thoughts of the actual cremation and having someone you knew all your life downsized to a small urn, but its symbolism has always hurt and it always will. I hate cremation. When I die, I don't mind becoming food for worms or compost for a beautiful tree. Just, please, don't burn me.

...

Most of my friends and relatives have been very understanding and supportive. Most of them, I said. Some still didn't tell me anything. A friend is not talking to me because I used a bad word for a you woman whom he doesn't know in person, asking why is she so important. Apparently, she is very important, as her carefree life and strange explanations for everything have got to be more important than me, someone who actually one can confide to and get a shoulder to cry on from. I am deeply disappointed. I keep on telling myself that his huge intellect cannot be fully operational before he comes out of age. I don't want to let him go. I still see a human in him, a human who could do a lot for this world. And he's breaking my heart by doing this.

The teenager whom I cannot stand is suddenly everywhere, with his emotionless, opportunistic, know-it-all attitude. He took a friend away from me last year. Not like our friendship had a future as she literally doesn't have a working human heart and only cares about being cool in the most shallow ways, but it hurts. It really does. I wanted to ask him to leave. But I asked him to leave so many times and he didn't. He's at the age when he knows everything. In ten years' time, he'll be a cute little black sheep, or a convict. Not sure what I'd prefer to come out of a person who thinks multipractic-religion-blending "musicians" are wise people. Not sure. I just want him to get out of my face. Now.

A wannabe journalist who friended all the possible celebs on Twitter and somehow friended my other website's account was angry because I didn't put her on a list for actually credible sources. I told her I was in mourning and I told her opportunism is an ugly thing. She said she was in the industry and that she doesn't give a crap about my personal life. I guess this is why her Twitter stream consists of, well, retweeting her other two accounts. She reminds me of another wannabe journalist, with one difference: she didn't make up alter egos of her beloved celebs to talk to or write imaginary interviews with them. But she'll probably reach that point.

We're getting by. A new baby will be born in the family in a couple of weeks, friends will have twins in January and we'll be godmothers, as dad was meant to be the godfather. We promised an elderly relative we'll visit her in her hometown as soon as the traditional 40-day-mourning is over. A friend from another country invited us to come over once the spring's here. There's the book fair later this month. There's a lot of book promotions, exhibitions...

...and, on the other side, there are nights when we're alone, when there's nobody to talk to and when I sit and wonder for how long will we be together, hoping I'm living with a record braker, one of those people who will be featured on TV for her age someday.

Right now, we're sitting and watching our country's football team play against the Estonians. I'm waiting for dad to come back from the kitchen or bathroom and join us, claiming we're playing worse than ever before. I'm waiting and nobody is coming. The southeastern wind is blowing, someone's steps can be heard through the heating system from another flat. Life goes on. But nobody is coming.

And nobody ever will.

12 Reactions to Loss

  1. karl Haudbourg says...

    Iva, your story brought tears to my eyes. It's really hard to write something while crying. My heart is crying, so it will be a short message. Condolences to you, your family and friends. Thanks for sharing your story. Kiss. Your friend. Karl.

     
     
  2. Flavia says...

    This is probalby one of the most strongest and saddest text of your I've read. And I strongly related to that... I think I never told you about my late great aunt. She lived with us, since I was 6 months old, and we lost her to a lot of diseases combined, including dementia, when she was 74(I was 20). It didn't take long too, 3 months at most... So I can imagine how you feel. Sorry I haven't been online lately. But I often think about you.

     
     
    • Iva says...

      We had that happen too...that's how dad's mother died - Alzheimer's which was not obvious until it was too late. During her

      Two years and one day before she died, she stayed with me when they took dad to hospital because of the aneurysm. As soon as mom and the paramedics drove away, she sat down and cried. I asked her why. She said that it's "how they took the grandfather away".

      And she had only two years to go. Her son had a little more than 15.

       
       
  3. Marika says...

    Incredibly moving and strong text. Thank you for sharing this and my condolences, once again, to you and your family.

     
     
  4. Sivan says...

    Dear Iva,
    I was really moved by your story.
    After reading this post I feel like I know your father, sounds like quite a remarkable man.
    Forget about rest of the things that happened with other people, some people just don't know how to react in certain situations, the ones who do are the ones that really love you and care about you (trust me, I've been there).

    May he rest in peace.

     
     
  5. Conchita says...

    I really would like to connect you to this link because @Documentally in his blogs about dying has written
    beautifully about his deep loss:
    http://documental.ly/tag/dying
    His blog helped me to cope with a lot of my emotional reminders of my own deep losses, following the death of my Serb father-in-law 19 months ago.
    Time never heals my own losses, however, my tears of sadness are now tears of love. As long as I breathe, I cry tears of love.

     
     
  6. Peter says...

    Iva, I wept while reading. I am sorry.

     
     
  7. Pingback: La semana en Twitter – 2010-10-10

  8. Jason says...

    Be strong girl.

     
     
  9. Manoo says...

    thank you for sharing this. i am very sorry for your loss. i recently lossed a beloved grandmother.

    i am glad you got to say your peace... that you forgave him and you asked for his forgiveness. I am not a religious person nor do believe in a judeo-christian god but i think it is important to let people leave this world loved and forgiven. it is good that you gave your dad that.

     
     
  10. Johanna says...

    Such a moving text and incredibly strong story. You will survive Iva, losing a family member is never easy. My condolences to you & your family and friends. Thanks for sharing this with us.

     
     
  11. Janet says...

    Iva,
    Your Dad went into bed on my Dad's 78th birthday (September 18). While reading that passage, I felt both relief that my Dad is still here and guilt that yours had to leave. A very strong man also, Dad's health is slipping quickly and I guess I am writing this more for myself, but I wanted you to know that you connected with me on that strange plane that most call spiritual, though I do not know what I call it-- fate maybe? Thank you for sharing this. I hope I have your strength on that inevitable day. Stay strong. xx

     
     

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