Continuing the Good Fight for Dad

At 34 years of age, I'm the eldest of the four kids he left behind and should feel privileged that I had him for the longest of all of us. But two weeks after his death and a week after his funeral, I am struggling to feel positive about anything at all.

It was 3.30am, my sister was standing in the dark doorway saying ''Anders, Anders, wake up, wake up". When I finally opened my eyes and sat up in the dark hospital room, she said "It has happened, dad has passed away in his sleep peacefully, just like we wanted.'"

Dazed and confused, I got dressed and out of the bed we'd constructed from a few hospital chair pillows and looked at my girlfriend who was lying next to me. We hardly spoke to each other and nervously walked into the room next door to see my dad, whom I had spent the last 12 days with in hospital.

He was still warm so he must have just passed away. He looked peaceful with his eyes closed, which was a change from the last ten days in which I had seen him suffer greatly, especially during the last two difficult days of his life. Initially I didn't feel sad, just relieved and happy he had found peace - but the sadness was to arrive in big waves, with the feeling that I was in the biggest storm ever, a storm that simply wouldn't end.

Two weeks ago my dad died at the age of 62 of cancer, he had bravely fought this terrible disease for five years, again and again beating impossible odds which the doctors gave him little hope of surviving. Each time he proved them wrong, and despite my mom warning me every time that we might need to start preparing ourselves for the worst, I remained upbeat and convinced that my dad could and would fight anything coming his way, just as he had done throughout his life. So his death came as a massive shock, especially as the doctors had given him the all clear only weeks before in June, telling him that despite the fact he had incurable cancer his chemo treatment had worked so well that the treatment could be stopped for now. He was over the moon when he received the news, but the good times were short because just as my parents went on holiday to celebrate the reprieve, the cancer struck again. This time the chemo did not work and he was admitted to our local hospital, from where things quickly went downhill.

At 34 years of age, I'm the eldest of the four kids he left behind and should feel privileged that I had him for the longest of all of us. But two weeks after his death and a week after his funeral, I am struggling to feel positive about anything at all. I feel a deep sense of unfairness that my loving father has been brutally stolen from me and my family. As several guests noted at his funeral, 62 years of age is no age at all - he should have lived at least another 25 years.

But I know that we're not alone and that cancer strikes millions of other families. The truth is that before you have been personally affected by cancer you pay little attention to it. Whilst we now understand the illness better than ever before and new scientific breakthroughs continue to be made, it is still an illness we cannot control. When we ourselves or our loved ones are struck by it, we have to pray that it's a cancer that can be treated and is not so advanced that we can't do anything about it.

As well as being a loving father and a loving husband to my mum, my dad was a fantastic human being. His life philosophy is probably the thing I most wish to replicate. He loved life to his very last hours and did not give up until there was absolutely nothing more that could be done. It was the smallest things in life that made him happy, such as waking up in the morning to the sound of the birds singing, walking around in the picturesque surroundings of my parents house in Thy in Denmark (the northern part of the Danish peninsula of Jutland), watching the birds, enjoying the nature of Nationalpark Thy (the first and biggest national park in Denmark) and popping down to the always stunning and wild North Sea coast. When I happened to be home and had the pleasure of joining my parents on these journeys, his absolute fascination with nature made me happy and proud.

But we also shared a deep concern about the future of our planet. When we walked along the North Sea coast and noticed rubbish being washed up on shore, he would talk angrily about how big container ships used the ocean as a dustbin. He was always keen to discuss my engagement with Greenpeace and was particularly interested in the campaign to protect the Arctic from oil companies. He was also interested in all my environmental blogging and would often print my articles out and bring them home to talk to my mom about them until she got bored. When we brought home his briefcase after he died, we found copies of many of my blogs there, in some instances with notes on them about questions to be asked of me when the time came.

After he died it felt like my world had totally collapsed, and it still feels that way. His death has made me think about the big picture of human existence, and, in relation to that, how important protecting the environment really is. I have to admit at one point I considered whether I could really carry on with my work, as compared to my dad's death it didn't seem at all that important. But I know how proud my dad was of my work and I know he would want me to carry on. His love and admiration for nature should be more than enough motivation for me to carry on. I know that everything I do will now always be in his memory, and I'm hoping that in the future I can be strengthened by my dad's strength. I made a promise to my dad to look after my mum and the rest of my family, and the best way I know how to do that is to protect the environment for future generations. It has never felt as important to honour that as it does now, and I will dedicate my life to doing so.

I will finish this tribute with what I think is a beautiful and poignant quote from my dad about the transition from winter to spring and why it was always his favourite season:

''It's incredible that something that can seem so without life and look so dead can suddenly have so much life again. There is constant activity beneath us, even though it doesn't look like it nature is always working hard, it is so fascinating."

Rest in peace Dad.