Dad made it so we could have a lovely day altogether to celebrate his birthday. It was a day full of laughs and jokes, and lots of photos were taken, until we got one just right.
In March however, Dad died.
He had fallen ill with an infection, which was not uncommon. Perhaps knowing that something was more than amiss, my step-mother called me and I spoke to him on the phone, but due to his fever, he had burbled incomprehensibly. My step-mother told me to keep talking - so I told him all my news.
The next day he was in hospital. We had thought it was a normal infection, but after a scan they found a tumour, which must have been growing inside. As Dad had requested not to have treatment, we knew this would probably be the end, so we all travelled to the hospital. He had a nice room, with a view of the sea. We cried, sat and held his hand, laughed and joked over funny memories of our childhoods and his dodgy driving skills. Dad was unconscious throughout, but we liked to think he knew we were there. After we had left for the night, my step-mother sat with him and - just like that- he stopped breathing. We had expected him to go on for a few days longer, but perhaps, once we had all been there and said our farewells he decided it was time.
I'm so happy for him that he has got his wish, but I'm even more glad that we all got to be there with him near the end.
Rather poignantly, the very last - comprehensible - thing he said to me, was 'when you are writing your thesis, think of me'. And I do.