May you truly rest in peace
Today is the 1st year anniversary of my father's passing, Raymond Walter Jenkins. I am writing this blog piece for a few reasons.
I am sharing a message or belief
I feel I need to write something as a part of the healing process
I want more people to “wake up” to themselves about their own health and wellbeing
I of course, fully understand that my father had passed, but internally I experience times of disbelief that I can't chat to him or see his face anymore. I knew he was going to die one day, I just felt like that day would never actually come. We butted heads, I didn't agree with all of his methods but I respect him so much and miss him dearly. My father did the best he could with what he had and I am quite sure that during his last moments on this Earth, he was proud of what he was leaving behind.
I want to share with you one of the single greatest gifts that Dad gave to myself and my brother. His gift to us, was creating a great mindset around looking after our bodies. Dad really influenced us to take care of, as he put “the one body we had”. It was a huge focus for him. He always made us walk, we rode our bikes everywhere, he kicked the ball with us, we moved often.
It wasn't only what he did with us, it was what he did in his own practice. It is said that children learn not only from what they do, they also learn from what they see. My Dad exercised as much as he could. We saw him train at gyms, he'd partake in aerobics classes, he’d also do his exercise routines at home which would consist of his own little aerobics program or boxing routine. Dad did quite a bit of training, which he continued into latter years. One of his most amazing feats would be the limited use of his Mitsubishi Lancer wagon. I think there is only about 50,000km’s which he had “clocked up” since purchasing it in 1999. It was common to see Dad riding his bike to get almost anywhere and at times you would find myself or my brother not far behind him on our bikes too.
My father's actions played such significant influence in how my brother and I have chosen to lead our lives. My father's little routines, his words and conversations with us on health and fitness have made its mark on both of us. We have both chosen a life dedicated towards looking after ourselves and helping others to do the same too. Of course there were no guarantees that I would choose such a focus on my own health and fitness pursuits, the same being for my brother, however we were certainly pointed in the right direction.
My father wasn't perfect. He had abused his body at various points in his life, he made mistakes just like all of us but as I saw saying at the start of his blog, I know he did his best. He quite honestly made it his mission to be on this Earth for as long as possible. Fortunately or unfortunately, however you may want to put it, my father had my brother and I much later in life. It was in his best interest and of course in his children, that he put in as much effort as possible to ensure he prolonged his existence. He wanted to be there for his family and he wanted to be around as we got older. All in all he did a tremendous effort to keep himself healthy.
Of course this is a blog about his passing and I want to share that with you. It was devastating to see him deteriorate. It was dementia which took a real hold of him on top of other health issues. Some of the things he did at home prior to his admission to hospital were odd and on reflection his behaviour was quite abnormal. It was taking a toll on my mother as his carer. There were other subtle signs that were unnoticed, only until we were informed of his illness did we make any connections. An example was, (and yes this is an assumption), I never took note or actually noticed when my father stop doing his crosswords. My father used to do crosswords all the time. It was actually something that he really enjoyed doing. He saw value in not only training his body, but his mind too. Whenever we would go down to Victor Harbour to visit my parents he would often ask my wife Yvette for assistance to work out some of the answers. He didn't ask me of course, I wasn't smart enough ☺️. I just can't help but wonder when my dad ceased putting pen to paper and figuring out the answers to his crossword, when was that final day? I can only assume that was one of the days dementia was taking a greater hold on his life.
Visiting Dad in hospital was such a tough time for us all. Yvette was juggling looking after and bringing up Jaycob, my mother was staying with us too, I was trying to manage my business and doing my best to help Yvette where I could. It was actually really hard visiting Dad in hospital because some days he was just quite honestly terrible to deal with. It's hard to describe all situations, but the moments where I actually ‘had my Dad with me' were slowly slipping away. There were big pauses between sentences whenever he spoke, he started having falls and needed to be in a wheelchair to get around.
It wasn't long until they had to place a monitor on his shirt whilst he lay in bed, which would alert staff when he would attempt to get up and try and walk around. The problem was if he did try to get out of bed, it was highly likely he was going to fall. Basically it was another ability lost. A man so head strong, so fiercely independent and painfully stubborn at times could no longer navigate his way from bed to toilet, basically anywhere around the ward.
Having a fall was traumatising and I believe for Dad, totally soul destroying. I recall one of my visits to the hospital and the doctor on shift was explaining to me that Dad had fallen during the night. It shattered Dad and each time he had a fall, whatever ground he seemed to almost make up (from a health point of view), he'd lose. It was like he would go 1 step forward then end up having a fall, which would send him another 2 or 3 steps back. He was so extremely demoralised I remember his words and I apologise for the language but he just kept repeating, “there's just nothing fucking left, there's just nothing fucking left”. No matter what I said to him, there was no convincing him that all was ok or that tomorrow was going to be a better day. It was so sad and depressing and maintaining hope was very difficult.
I forgot to mention earlier exactly where my dad was sorry, but he was in a ward in the Repatriation Hospital that specialised in working with patients with similar illnesses to Dad. It’s an area where you have you to get “buzzed” in and out due to the fact that patients weren’t allowed to leave the ward otherwise there was high chance they’d wander and go missing. Do you know how hard it was to leave my dad in hospital? He didn’t want to be there at all, he didn’t even know why he was in there. The dad who had raised me, who’d seen me go through both tough times and good times in life, I had to leave him there against his will. I had to watch the clear glass security doors close behind me whilst he stood there waving goodbye. I’ll never forget the look on his face. I couldn’t help but have tremendous feelings of guilt at times, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. I wanted my Dad at home, he wanted to be home, but there was no way that could happen.
There were a few moments as I said earlier where I “had my dad”. We were sitting in a sunny outdoor area of the Repatriation Hospital. I was with my wife, Jaycob and my mother was with us too. Dad absolutely loved the sun so one of his biggest requests was to get outside to soak up the warmth. My Dad unfortunately formed this position where he would sit in his wheelchair, hunched over looking slightly downward for eye contact wasn’t something he was able to do anymore. He was chatting with my wife, the conversation was only brief but we had asked him how he was going. He was happy, he told Yvette that he felt like that he reached the “pinnacle of his life” and all that mattered now was that quite simply to be surrounded by his family. Those words gave us a little tear at the time. Some happiness from him in a situation he could not escape.
I was in such hope that I would get my Dad out of the “Repat” and into an aged care facility not too far away from us. We were left short of that dream when one of the doctors in charge informed us that Dad was going into septic shock. They gave him the strongest antibiotics available, as the doctor put it “drugs that you needed special clearance to use”, but his organs were basically shutting down on him. Dad told me a few weeks prior that, “he’s not getting out of here” . I refused to believe his statement but he ended up being right. In reality the process of his death had all ready begun weeks before this moment, but now his life was quickly coming to an end. I called my brother up, he came in with his partner and we told them the news. We weren't exactly sure how long it would take for Dad to pass, but we fortunately celebrated a final family moment together drinking champagne, Dad's favourite drink. It was our final proper goodbye.
I probably haven't put everything in its order in this blog, but nonetheless it is to paint a picture of how things were during this painful period. It took about 6 days for Dad to die. In the first few days he would try and sit up, was extremely agitated and would yell out at times that he needed help for he was dying. I remember my Dad would wail in pain when the nurses would come in to not only change his sheets, but change his soiled adult nappy. Dad was stuck in that bed and no longer able to communicate or quite possibly recognise when he needed to go to the toilet. He would beg the nurses to stop for he was in extreme pain and all myself and/or my brother could do was try to help comfort him. For a while he wasn't eating, even refused food several weeks previous to his end. If we did get any food into him, sometimes it was just custard that was spoon fed by us. He pretty much stopped drinking water, his skin was going yellow and his eyes were depleting in colour. His pain just increased as the days went on, and so did the drugs to stay on top of his discomfort. The Repat gave us use of a room to sleep in which we did nap in, but most of the time we just sat in Dad's room getting little shuteye where we could. It was an incredibly tiring and emotional few days, an experience very foreign to us.
I am pretty sure it was the last day or 2 that the gaps between Dad's breaths were increasing. It was like he was holding his breath for 30-40 seconds before taking in 1 or 2 more. His body was limp, eyes open but focused on nothing. I also recall seeing the inside of his mouth being quite black and extremely dehydrated. I would try and hug him at times but it was very strange having my arm around him and noticing what felt like only a thin layer of skin with all the weight he had lost. The last thing he had was his breaths and I believe a strong will to fight until the end. I leaned over to Dad, put my hand on him and said something along the lines of “it's ok, it’s ok Dad, you're allowed to go Dad”. I witnessed my father taking what seemed like two big mouthfuls of air and then no more. After those breaths, there were only a few more pulses of blood in the veins in his neck. Dad finally passed away in the early afternoon on Saturday the 19th of March, 2016, aged 87.
A year has gone and as I said it's hard to believe at times that he’s not here, that I can't pick up the phone and talk to him or see his face. I am grateful for so many things that Dad had either shown or taught me in life. I am not perfect by any means, but I am proud of who I am. I am so darn lucky that Dad did make us walk and ride everywhere and the he was an incredible role model with all the exercise he used to perform at home. With his influence, exercise and movement has become a staple in my life and I help others make it a focus in theirs too.
Here's part of my message to you. These words are important for me to take note of as well. Anyhow, here goes...
Your actions can have such a huge impact in this world, and of course the impact can either be positive or negative. Even the smallest actions, especially repeated often can end up being monumental. Most of us have an opportunity to do amazing things in our lives that can change the future of many. As adults, we have a choice as to what we value or what we think is most important. With that being said, we have a power to influence those who are close to us when it comes to those values. I believe that health and movement should be and needs to be of high value to us all. I believe that consistent practice in areas of great nutrition and exercise makes for a strong foundation of happiness amongst us all. It's by no means the be all and end all, but it's certainly right up there. Health is a part of life but unfortunately for many it still seem there is minimal correlation between the two.
As stated, my father was an older parent and I guess inevitability would not be alive to see his grandchildren grow up. I am grateful that he got to meet Jaycob, but do you know how much I wish he could see him now? If my father could have stuck around for just 1 more year, the joy he would've experienced interacting with Jaycob would have been just beautiful. Not meant to be? Quite possibly so. Here’s the rest of what I have to say...
Please don't take a chance on your health, for this situation could happen to any of you, it really can. I assume that we all want to live long enough or be around to see our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and the like grow up. The thing is though, life can change in an instant, so there are no guarantees. Essentially the length of your existence is unknown. I am sure we can all relate to knowing someone who has lost their life far too soon. Focusing on health doesn't necessarily guarantee that you will be around for as long as you want to be, but it undoubtedly increases your chances. Even if you do get to a ripe old age, wouldn’t you want to do your best to be the healthiest most mobile person that you can be? Repeatedly telling yourself that you are too busy, too tired, unable to afford training, whatever your reason for inactivity on a daily or weekly basis is like playing Russian Roulette with your life. You can call me extreme, but life to me is a pretty big deal!
Remember, how you lead your life, your general actions, can have an effect on others too. The immense and absolutely extraordinary power that you have to show those close to you, that you value... YOU Is incredible in itself. Your body is an amazing gift and if you are currently in reasonable health you've already hit the jackpot. Please PLEASE don't take your jackpot for granted anymore. Truly start looking after yourself more often, move, get really active with your kids, drag your partner, friends and family out to exercise and create a life and legacy of great health. That's the real gift to your family. It's what I want to leave behind when one day... I take my final breaths too. Thank you for reading my blog.
Please feel free to comment, share, or even contact me for help. I really hope that you or someone else that you know and love gets something from reading this. Take care and here’s to great health