My Dad moved in with me and my partner and two young children when he was sick with lung cancer. I did my best to care for him. He gained weight, explored the town and took a turn for the better for a while. The cancer was bad, though, and he was very ill. On Christmas Day, I left him in care of my brother, so we could visit the in-laws as usual. I hugged him and said “Dad, take care of yourself.”
The next day, my brother called to say my Dad had been found dead of a gunshot. He had driven out to the country and killed himself. The years of guilt and shame at leaving him have not been made better by people who say “He went the way he wanted to.” There is no empathy for me when I tell this story, just a message that I should change my attitude. How many days could I still have had with him? What was it like when he made that choice? I want those days. I want to sit with him in those last hours and be a comfort. I’m furious at the gun store that sold an obviously very sick man a shotgun. I’m haunted by my final words to him and the fact that I wasn’t there when he needed me most.