Reunited with dad after 15 years - Liz’s story
The first time I lost my dad, Tony Moran, was ironically worse than the second and last time I lost him. I was 14 and my little brother Ben was 11 when my mum and dad went their separate ways. My dad literally disappeared. We had always had a good relationship with dad, he was an estate agent and a real character. He was great fun to be around and always made us laugh. But he also had his demons.
After a few years of looking for him, I left England to live abroad. I felt so much sadness and for years I was unhappy and felt bereft. Not knowing if someone is dead or alive is awful, especially when you’re a child. But I never blamed him for disappearing.
One day, about 15 years later Ben called me. “I've got some news” he said. He’d had a call from one of our dad’s friends to say that he was in Whipps Cross hospital and if we wanted to see him we didn't have long. I literally dropped everything and got on a flight to London. The next day I found myself at this huge London hospital where I found a poor, ill, scared man. My dad. He'd had a massive stroke and couldn't speak or really move. He also had very advanced bone cancer.
His neighbour told me he was in such bad pain that he drove himself to Whipps Cross Hospital. When I arrived he was literally at deaths door.
The nurses were so kind but immediately started to help me find a hospice for him as he was dying and there was nothing they could do for him. In what I later realised was a real stroke of luck he'd been living in the catchment area for St Joseph’s. A week or so later we were accompanied in an ambulance to this wonderful place. We were taken to St Michael’s Ward where he was given a lovely, warm, cosy, modern room. Probably the nicest room he'd slept in for a while. They helped him with his pain and he was comfortable.
I explained our story to the nurses and how we wanted to keep him company on his final journey. The whole time he was there I never left his side for a second. I was allowed to sleep in his room and Ben and I made sure he was never alone at night.
It was really tough. After finding him so many years later he couldn't really speak so we never really knew what had happened to him for all those years. It was very hard and we communicated through looks and gestures. He could understand every word I said but could only reply by nodding or with his eyes. He cried a lot, which I know is normal with stroke victims.
St Joseph’s. What a place. He was so well looked after by so many different people. A lady came to read to him. Another lady came to trim his nails and sort his feet out. A kind male nurse shaved him and trimmed his hair to keep him smart, he was treated with such dignity and respect. Despite having a tiny appetite his meals were always brought to him and they always tried to get something nutritious inside him.
There is a beautiful garden at St. Joseph's where I spent hours pushing him round, looking at the flowers and London sunshine. Some friends and family came to visit and were always made welcome. In his last hours Ben and I stayed the night and were kindly offered the use of the guest room and shower. The nurses were always with us and my dad and during the final moments one of the nurses held my hand. He died one day before his 57th birthday. It was very sad, but made bearable by the kindness and support of all the staff.
While we were at St Joseph’s the care and support was continual and essential. I was so upset after he died that a staff member registered my dad’s death on my behalf.
I will be eternally grateful to St Joseph's Hospice for letting me spend time with my lost father, and for keeping him safe during his final months. Now we've all had some closure and can truly move on.
We wanted to have a physical memory of my dad as he had been cremated so decided to get a memory leaf in his name as it seemed to tie in. I try to donate a small amount every year to the hospice, as does my mum and I try to pop in to St. Joseph's and have a coffee when I can, just to relive those special moments.
Thank you St Joseph's, you and my dad are often in my thoughts.