Last summer my Father-in-Law was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
The disease took hold of Ian quickly, and within a matter of months he had gone from being a very strong and bubbly 64 year old man heading for a happy retirement, to a man unable to lift his legs off the ground and time closing in on him fast.
As you can imagine, it came as a huge shock to the whole family. Cancer destroyed him before our very eyes and there was nothing we could do.
As we travelled with him through the ups and downs of various sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, we held onto the small hope that he might make it through for one last Christmas. He did, and it was a special time in the home my wife grew up in come Christmas Day.
Since the turn of the year, though, the entire family has been living on tender hooks. Each day Ian grew worse before our very eyes, until eventually he had to be moved first to the Western General Hospital, and then to the Marie Curie Cancer Hospice in Edinburgh.
He had good days and bad as the cancer spread further through him, but he was cared for beautifully by a team of people who have dedicate their lives to lessening the suffering of terminal cancer patients.
Ian left us one week ago today – the same time this blog entry was posted. His funeral was yesterday.
It’s indescribable what it is like to watch someone deteriorate and die before your eyes in such a short period of time; someone once so strong, alert and alive. You feel helpless, abandoned, betrayed, bitter, angry – long goodbyes are so cruel for everyone. It’s something you have to live through to understand fully – and I hope none of you ever do.
It’s too hard to write much else in today’s post. I’ll leave you with the eulogy I wrote and delivered at Ian’s funeral in Edinburgh’s Warriston Crematorium yesterday, a eulogy that Ian requested I make before he died. “Give them something to laugh about,” he told me. “And say a poem for me.”
I can’t say how I feel about Ian any better than the words I chose to use in his eulogy. Many long hours were spent writing it, and many tears were fought back saying it.
The worst thing about being asked by Ian to stand here today and say a few words, wasn’t that I knew it was going to be a tough thing to sit down and write, but that I knew I would have to do it so soon.
Looking around this room today, I can’t see one person who wasn’t touched by his generosity, kindness or humour in at least some small way.
I knew Ian for a little over 10 years – not nearly long enough – but in those 10 years I learnt a lot from Ian and a lot about him.
Ian was a true gentleman. He was selfless – always prepared to help others with anything that needed done. He did so much for me and Gail that I always thought it strange to see him dressed in anything other than his workies gear. I never quite got used to that.
He was a perfectionist; never happy till the job was done the right way, which of course to Ian meant the job was never quite done to his satisfaction. Which leads me onto my next observation —
He was a workaholic. I used to say to him: “Ian, you need to start thinking about getting a hobby for when you retire – you cannae work all the time.”
“I’ve got one,” he said. “You’re hoose!”
Ian was a family man; I saw for myself first hand how happy he was when he was with his family – and when he welcomed me into that fold on my wedding day, I knew it meant a great deal – to him and to me.
Ian knew what really mattered in life. He always managed to keep things in perspective no matter what was going on. He had an incredible knack of being able to take the most complicated or emotional problem and turn it into something black and white. Stick him in the Middle East I used to say – Ian’ll sort that one out before lunch.
Ian could talk.
I, for one, am missing his voice already.
He was a Rum man; dark rum and coke. 15 bottles of OVD he got for his 60th birthday. That part of him will live on strong certainly in my house Gail helped him finish that lot off in record time.
When I think of Ian none of my memories are sad. Like the time he accidentally flooded our kitchen and the whole street had to go without water for a day while he fixed the pipe.
Or when Carol sent him out for fish suppers and he returned almost an hour later with two re-heated kippers and a poke of chips. Carol sussed it straight away – he’d gone to the Chinese next door to the chippy by mistake. “I wondered why it took them so long to make the fish!”
I was going to tell you about the first time I ever met Ian, which kind of summed up our relationship over the next 10 years. But on reflection, probably not a good idea. Let’s just say if you have kids of your own, don’t walk into their house, or the bedroom, unannounced first thing on a Saturday morning.
Ian was a great father to Alan and Gail, and a wonderful granddad to Laura and Kyle. And for me, I’ve lost the best Father-in-Law I could ever have wanted, a great friend, and an important ally, in what is now a family made up almost entirely of women.
There’s no arguing that Ian was just a 100% top bloke and a genuine stand-up guy, and for all of these reasons and too many others, he’ll be greatly missed and remembered often.
On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank everyone that looked after Ian while he was sick, and in particular towards the end the staff at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh who made his final days as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
Ian told me to do two things when I gave his eulogy: the first was to “give them something to laugh about” – and the 2nd was to say a poem. Hopefully I’ve managed the first bit, so here’s a poem:
To the living, I am gone
To the sorrowful, I will never return
To the angry, I was cheated
But to the happy, I am at peace
And to the faithful, I have never left
I cannot speak, but I can listen
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard
So as you stand upon the shore
Gazing at the beautiful sea, remember me
As you look in awe at a mighty forest
And in its grand majesty, remember me
Remember me in your hearts,
In your thoughts, and the memories of the
Times we loved, the times we cried,
the battle we fought and the times we laughed
For if you always think of me,
I will never have gone.