Supporter’s story: Dunkie

My Father died Feb 1st 2015.  He was diagnosed by Pancreatic Cancer during the week before Christmas 2014.  During most of January 2015 he received palliative care from the NHS District Nurses at home with my Mother, Brother and myself and loved ones around him.

To say it all happened quickly would be an understatement.

During the Easter of 2014 we were aware he had a large cyst in his pancreas, however surgery to remove the cyst was not possible due to my Father’s weak heart and his ‘white-coat’ condition.  So during 2014 he lost a large amount of weight and confidence, and towards the last few months of 2014 he could barely eat.  Eating would cause much discomfort.

Throughout it all I don’t really think we ever thought we would be living without him in our lives a year from then.  He would still be walking to the shops, visiting my home to see my children (his beloved Grandchildren), even going away to music Concerts and trips around the UK with my Mother.  Yes he was properly in a great deal of pain, but carried on with the day to day routines of life.

This isn’t saying life was always sweet, like all families little ‘words’ were exchanged, nothing severe but the usual family rubbish; “why is the picture ratio wrong on some of the Sky Channels & DVDs but not on them all?” and then when someone would try to change the Settings we were told “don’t potch with it!”

I know I would now rather be having these silly discussions with my Father than having the silence of a life without his voice.  I know my family all would.

After his passing I took counselling sessions within the Mountain Ash Rowan Tree Cancer Care centre.  I’m not embarrassed to say so, sometimes we all need a little help and guidance.  I half knew what to expect from attending counselling sessions many years ago, but I had never before received Bereavement counselling.

The staff consoled me when I first enquired regarding how to make an appointment, I could genuinely feel the warm they conveyed to me.  Then at my first session the Counsellor set me at ease.  I was told I could talk or not talk about my thoughts, and to use the time within the sessions however it suited me needs.  “Where do I start?” I thought.

My counsellor assured me that every word spoken would be held in confidence, and little by little over the course of a 1 hour weekly session of counselling I spoke and spoke.  The details are not necessary, and to be fair it all seems a little trivial.  We all deal with grief and suffering in our own way, all I can say is that I am truly thankful to the Rowan Tree Cancer Care centre for their help during this time.  I always will be indebted to them.  The centre relies on donations, how can a monetary amount be placed on invaluable help and guidance such what they gave me?

Throughout my counselling I spoke of music and lyrics, and would speak about how music often played a great part of my life.  I grew up in a home that adored music and playing vinyl records.  My Mother would clean the house listening to music, she still does to this day, and my Father would almost make an event of listening to music on a Friday evening after work.  He would either sit down to watch TV Concerts of his favourite music or would stack up the vinyl on the record player.  I would watch as fascinated as each vinyl would drop onto the other, creating a tower of vinyl and be amazed at the how the stylus needle would still be playing the music from such a height.

Via both my Parents I think I have received a varied fundamental taste for a wide taste of music, from Classical to Pop, 12-Bar Blues to Comedy, Swing to MOR, eventually taken their passion and making it my own.

I mentioned to my counsellor how I would listen to music, and how at times of trouble it helped clear my head.  I explained how I would write my own songs and had written words to help me through my Father’s death, a few songs; almost in the form of a journal or self therapy.  The counsellor mentioned the positivity of any form of artistic creativity, something that is covered within the Rowan Tree Cancer Care centre itself as they provide Art Therapy, Aromatherapy, Reflexology and Indian Head and Neck Massages.

Writing words or a sentence and trying to sum up your feelings within just a few lines is an almost impossible feat.  So I wrote, awkwardly about the mundane things of life and of how I was feeling.  They seemed silly to even write onto paper; seeing or hearing my Father in something I would say or do, catching a glimpse of him in my own reflection, the smell of him on clothing, seeing the holes within his socks as I placed the same socks on my own feet, questioning whether we could have just done that little more, taking my children to the same places my own Father would take my Brother and I as children, and noticing how my Father’s eyes turned from startling blue to yellow (as the jaundice slowly discoloured every part of his body) in the last few days of his life.  These are all things that linger long after his death.

My Father had big shoes to fill; he was the Secretary of Mountain Ash Football Club for over 50 years of his life and I’d like to think he was very well respected by his friends and peers within the Club.  The large attendance of his funeral I think cemented the respect he had gained through the years.  Football was pretty much his life, it was his passion.  Neither myself nor my Brother ever followed in his footsteps via the club, we like our Football, but not too the depth of passion my Father had for the love of the game.  So again here the feeling of not being able to fill his boots shadowed my writing.

Being a Father myself I know how much pride is attained from the achievements of own my children, so deep down I know my Father was proud of pretty much anything my Brother and I achieved.  But it doesn’t stop you from crucifying yourself a little after the fact.

So within my writing I tried to combine everything I felt, the joy, the heartache, the questioning, the love, the memories, sadness, hope, the love of Football for my Father and most importantly to create a new memory, to bring a touch of happiness back into the lives that lost him.  I eventually wrote a few little songs.  Yes the words were personal but they covered the familiar situations of such a loss.

I wrote a couple of songs purely for myself in a bid to almost come to an understanding of my pain and loss, to see it written on paper and to sing about him may have helped me move forward, I thought.  One particular song I wrote I entitled “71-41-11”, and I think it was the most personal lyric I wrote about the loss of my Father.

To bring his life into song I needed his voice.  During the ‘60’s I remember my Father and Mother made a spoken vinyl 7” ‘Record’ together when they were first dating.  They went into a Portable recording booth in Porthcawl and just playfully and awkwardly sang, and coaxed each other on to say words into the microphone.  I remember as a teenager listening to the recording, it was very crackle but thankfully my friend was able convert the vinyl recording into a MP3 file.

I wanted the song I had written to have my Father’s voice within the recording the song, to keep him close by always, and I wanted it to be accompanied with my own children, his beloved Grandson’s, to just create a time capsule moment.  Something for the future of their lives too.

“Death ripples throughout everyone around you” my counsellor told me, so I wanted others to be part of this song.  It was everyone’s grief but also everyone’s hope and happiness.

I knew I couldn’t achieve the production of the song I wanted at home within the limited equipment I hold.  So I sought help from a friend.  For the last 8 years or so I have been friends online with many musicians from different parts of the world, a few I can thankfully consider as close friends.

One particular musician was called ‘BigRoundBaby’, a Scottish musician now living in Sweden with his family.  I first discovered his music online via the music streaming site MySpace, and I instantly fell in love with one particular original song of his.  Through the years we would share musical tastes, influences, stories and songs.  Two years or so ago he lost his Mother tragically and suddenly be what was thought to be an aneurism.

Over the internet we messaged one each one other, myself trying to comfort my friend as much as remotely possible, via typed conversational words, through this heart-breaking of times for him.  He has later told me he himself received Bereavement counselling in some form and found this of great eventual benefit.

Eventually the roles reversed when he consoled me on the death of my own Father, the two of us consoling one other via the internet with only written words.  We had never met one another in person yet we seemed to share common views and musical tastes, and found ease in speaking to one another.

Through mourning my Father I found myself playing my friend’s music to myself, in comfort, I would speak of writing songs to help me through the grief.  He always encouraged me and like many friends during the time offered a shoulder.

Eventually I mentioned a song I had writing called “71-41-11” (the title being the age my Father was when he died [71], my age [41] when my Father died and the age of my first Son [11] when my Father died).  Always 30 years apart.  I send my friend a roughly recorded acoustic demo and, I don’t remember how, but we eventually worked out a way via the internet to work together of the song.  To almost pour our loss and love for the death of a Parent into a personal song and its production, as he once said to me “whole sections of grief cannot be described in words”, so the hope of creating music, creating an almost organic memory may help us.  Maybe others may recognise the same situations and take a little comfort too.  I hope so.

In-doing-so through the course of a few months, when available, we were able to build the song to how it finally sounds today.  The song includes my voice, my Father’s voice, my children’s voice, my friend’s voice and his two Daughter’s voices.

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The ripple effect creating a therapeutic vessel for us both to focus on paying tribute to a loved one and to help ourselves, almost selfishly, and hopefully others heal a little.

I want to share this song with the Rowan Tree Cancer Care in hope that people would like to donate a little money to own the song and in-doing-so help the centre with a donation.  Sharing stories and talking through grief and suffering can only help, it surely cannot hinder the situation.  Having friends and family to hand, and the opportunity to receive counselling I found invaluable.  I know counselling is not for everyone, but suffering after such a loss is Universal.  Therefore I hope anything said here or sang within the song is beneficial to at least one person, and that any money that is donated is entirely beneficial to the Rowan Tree Cancer Care.  Personally I cannot thank you enough.


If you would like to donate and download the song you can do so using the form below.

dunkie







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