Late last year, around Father’s Day time, we got some bad news that my stepfather Baz had been admitted to hospital with stomach pain. Appendicitis was suspected but sadly a diagnosis of peritoneal mesothelioma was made, with a grim prognosis.
Baz and Joy made the decision to fight for the love of life and kick the hell out of the bucket list. Baz underwent chemotherapy to give him a bit more time, and the two lovebirds hit the road in their Jaznabout (Joy and Baz Jazzing About) campervan, between hospital visits, chemotherapy and visiting friends and family. Baz decided that if he didn’t have many other options than sitting and looking out the window, then he would prefer to look out a moving window at New Zealand’s beautiful scenery. The road trip theme song was “On the road again” and he sang it every time they took off.
We planned our Xmas holiday trip to the North Island of New Zealand so we could spend some time celebrating my mother’s 60th birthday. She was a mere child bride when she had me! We got to spend some time with Baz too. We were shocked by the changes the illness had made to him, but were delighted that his cheeky personality and grin were not remotely dimmed. He required a walking cane but upped the suave factor with a fedora.
After his last chemo, he talked his oncologist into authorising a trip to Australia to say goodbye to people as well as places. The itinerary was Brisbane, where one daughter lived, then Albury, where he lived for many years and where his eldest daughter lived, then a flying visit to Sydney to see us. He had two more daughters who lived not far from him in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, he picked up an infection in Brisbane and never made it out of the hospital. He slipped away peacefully in his sleep after three weeks in hospital, holding his beloved wife’s hand, as they shared a pillow. He left this earth knowing he was deeply loved and truly treasured.
As we were preparing to say goodbye to him far too early, the adage “live every day as though it is your last” kept echoing through my head. Baz was a wonderful mate, husband and father, who was taken away from us too soon. I’m so glad he had the opportunity to put his affairs in order and tick a few things off his bucket list. This is the only benefit to a terminal illness – the ability to be prepared – and I’m really stretching to call it a benefit. I’m a silver lining girl but I’m struggling to find the good in this situation.
I was delighted that he ends his days surrounded by some of the people who love him – all four of his daughters were able to be by his side, with his oldest grandchildren. His best mate of many years continues to be a fabulous support to the family and my mother in these terrible times.
To see Joy and Baz together was to witness true love. That love sustained both of them through some very dark days.
Baz’ pain is now ended, and this is of some comfort to those of us who miss him desperately, but there are no consolation prizes.
The service and cremation was held in Brisbane this week, with the wake held at the Brisbane Broncos Club – his favourite NRL team. It just seemed like fate when we got there to see the team in training.
My mother is currently in transit back home to New Zealand, carrying his ashes. A memorial celebration will be held at a later stage at one of his favourite places – the Whakatane RSA and a pool cue guard of honour will be formed for him, as a tribute.
I am glad that I was able to visit Baz in hospital on what turned out to be one of his fabulously lucid days. The amount of painkillers he was required to be on made for some entertaining moments though. My mother and I were whispering so as not to disturb him and he said “Don’t whisper if you don’t want me to hear you”. When I whispered to my mother that he had ears like a bat, he responded, quick as a flash, that “I can’t hear what you said but I’m not a bat”. He retained that cheeky spirit to the end.
I’m even more glad that I was able to support my mother through the day before and after the funeral. I couldn’t do much, but ransacking my wardrobe to style her for the day, and taking care of some grooming that she’d been too busy to even think about made me feel like I’d helped in some little way.
Vale Baz. Mate, we will miss you for the rest of our days. I’m sure you’ve found an eight ball tournament in the big RSA in the sky, and have already appointed yourself as the manager – no one could organise a tournament better than you. I’m positive there will be bargains galore wherever you are – no wonder we got on so well! I know wherever you are that there is no more pain and much love – and probably two-for-one dinner specials.
Lots of love xxx