I was staring out the window when I got the phone call that my dad was dead

Paula Gahan flew home from London to go to her father’s funeral

Paula Gahan is from Kildare, but lives in London and works as cabin crew for an international airline. Her father died recently of a heart attack. Although his death was not Covid-related, she says it still came as a shock as John Gahan was in “great health” when he passed away suddenly on May 20th. The funeral of the former Lieutenant Colonel in the Irish Army took place in Cahir, Co Tipperary on May 26th. Paula had to do a PCR test before she could enter the State and quarantined for five days after arriving. She did another test before returning to England and says she is trying to “take comfort from the fact he didn’t suffer”.

I was really happy that morning. I’d moved into my new apartment after six years in grotty, London househares. I was looking out the window and I kid you not, I was thinking that life is good, finally, I’m in a good place in my life.

I did something I never normally do; I put my phone away so I could sit quietly and appreciate things. And that’s what I was doing before I got the phone call to tell me my dad was dead. I was staring out the window and thinking life was perfect.

It hit me in an instant, the finality of it. There were no more opportunities for our relationship to be better, no more opportunities for anything. It was over.


People always say death is so final, and to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, that sounds a little obvious. Yes, of course death is final. I knew that before. But now I felt it like a weighted rock, hanging in my chest.

I’ll never see him again.

His approval meant a lot to me. No offence to mum, but she’d be proud no matter what. You had to work hard to get Dad to take notice. He was the main person I wanted to impress. The one person I wanted to be proud of me.

Anyone older than Dad wasn't getting in. What age are you? You got two years more than Dad, so piss off

He died suddenly with no warning. I don’t know why I had been so naïve as to expect there would be a sign. It’s not like in the movies where you hear the Jaws music playing before someone dies. In real-life it comes on a normal day, with no fanfare, no foreboding.

Life feels different now. As dumb as it sounds, I realise that people do actually die. People you love. People close to you. I found myself sitting on the tube, staring at the young mother and her three gorgeous girls opposite me. They looked just like her and were off somewhere to enjoy the sun. How is everyone still going about their lives, have they not heard my dad is dead, I thought? Does that young mother not realise that she’ll die too - and everyone else in this carriage? It’s a dark thought. There’s a man in the carriage who looks older than dad, how come he gets to live?

Strange thoughts I never would have thought I’d have, but apparently its normal. My brother and sister feel the same. We joked about hiring a bouncer for the door of the church during the funeral. Anyone older than Dad wasn’t getting in. What age are you? You got two years more than Dad, so piss off.

The night we buried him the motion detector went off in the garden while we were watching TV. A hedgehog was eating the food we’d left out for the cat. My sister said she’d never seen a hedgehog before and for some weird reason we all latched onto him. Each night the light would go off and we’d all run to the kitchen window to watch him slowly eat the food. I should point out that before my dad died, none of us had any interest in hedgehogs and definitely weren’t all running into the kitchen to stare at them in the dark. But it’s weird, the things you cling onto in the first few days.

My mother had called him in from the garden, the typical Irish thing of 'I'll put your father on to you'. I'm so glad she did that now

I spoke to him on the phone the day before he died. My mother had called him in from the garden, the typical Irish thing of “I’ll put your father on to you”. I’m so glad she did that now. He was in great form, really happy. My brother had graduated in medicine the week before, I’d bought my flat and he’d gotten his second vaccine. Life was good. All his children were happy and doing well. I work in aviation and the airline I work for had a massive cull last year, firing thousands of people. He asked me if I was safe now and if I was sure I wouldn’t lose my job.

That was the last thing I said to him.

“I’m fine, it’s all good now. Everything’s going to be OK.”

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