RACE 4 LIFE

Fulfilling the wishes of Palliative Care Patients

TONY

A chance encounter between mutual friends recently reconnected my biological father and I again after 35 years. Turns out he had terminal cancer. A planned trip to meet was suddenly brought forward on July 19th when the kids and I were asked to prepare to fly to Auckland that afternoon. The kids met Grandad Tony for the first time, and I saw Dad for the first time since I was 12.

During our time with him, Dylan read him a story he wrote about a boy whose Grandad was dying from Cancer. They went on a fishing trip and caught an unusual fish that turned out to be the cure for Cancer. Dad started off smiling, then launched into laughter, coughing up so much lung and blood in the process, we half thought we'd killed him there and then. At the end of the story he sat as forward as much as he could and clapped - saying Happy Hippy! Happy Hippy! (He lived a reclusive hippy lifestyle, off the grid on Great Barrier Island, away from Society). He always called himself the Happy Hippy.

He fell asleep shortly after, unable to be woken. During this time Dad's brother turned up. I hadn't seen him since I was very little, we hugged the lining daylight out of each other. We sat with Dad and told him how happy we were that he'd brought us all back together. Dad opened his eyes for a second as we kissed him goodbye and said we'd see him in the morning. We never did. He passed away peacefully early the next morning.

I didn't have time to look through the few possessions he had there, so decided to leave them with my Uncle for the time being, as we had a flight to catch. The only thing I managed to see was that Dad did have a very old picture of my sister Nikki and me in his wallet. Turns out Dad carried us around with him all this time.

As we were leaving, one of the Hospice nurses called us all over to sniff the box of Panadol she'd taken from Dad's bag. "What does that smell like to you?" she said. It wasn't rocket science. It was full of pot. The hall filled with laughter. Then more laughter as we all realised I almost took it through the airport and onto the plane!

Race4life made this happen. Initially the thought finally reuniting with Dad, then having to say goodbye, kind of turned my brain into a pretzel. Race4Life just scooped us up in their big 'make stuff happen' arms and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. God knows how they got all those ducks in a row.  Dates changed, flights were updated, insurance was negotiated, accommodation was reorganised.  And BAM! We're in Auckland, where we meet Rob and Jonnie - genuine smiles and sparkly eyes were just the beginning.  What a lovely distraction, all that talking and laughter.  They drove us hundreds of kilometres and waited many hours while we spent time with Dad, visited special, meaningful places and even managed to squeeze in a trip to Kelly Tarltons. While there, the kids and I created a digital star fish with Dad's name on it.  This gorgeous creature swam out of the little tank we created it in, then out into the large colourful ocean projected onto the wall.  It was like we were setting him free.

The Race4life team did so much more than arrange a dying man to meet his family.  They gave so much of themselves. We all felt so genuinely cared for.  It feels strange to say something so sad was also so wonderful.  So much good came from that weekend - healing, closure, comfort and new relationships.

          

Thankyou Race4life.  When I retire, I'd like to join you!!