My father died two years ago today. It was a good death. He planned it all and apart from a couple of troubled moments where he doubted he could die, he managed it in the end. It was with great love that we held his hand and told him his body would know what to do and that this was ok. It was with great humour that we sat with him as his breathing laboured and stopped only to start again 30 seconds later. They don’t tell you that about the dying, but as Dad had a great sense of theatre we started to smile as he slipped off this mortal coil.
I miss him. I’m angry with him that he went before I was ready to be the grown up. I want to tell him I was on telly this week and that I got engaged to the clown and that I read a good book recently. I want to tell him that my response to his death was to host death cafes and how amazing they are and that I travelled on my own to Australia and America. I want to tell him that I played Al Martino Here in my Heart for someone in my CST group this week and that I remembered Dad singing it even though I hadn’t realised it. I want to tell him that as it dawned on me during the CST session I had to swallow my grief as it felt like a punch in the stomach. I want to tell him that I had a conversation about Jussi Bjorling and how amazed the person was that I knew who he was at all!
Mum and I are going out for lunch as a way of marking this day. We will probably order the most Spanishy thing on the menu and we will raise our glasses that we have survived without your bloody moaning, your humour and your advice (which I rarely took).
This is what I read at my father’s funeral and is still true 🙂
We should not be here today. Dad’s wishes were that he should leave his body to medical science so we were rather hoping that we could ship him off to the University of Leicester and we could raid his wine cabinet to toast the old boy privately. However, we are deeply grateful to all of you who have joined us today to pay tribute to Dad’s life and celebrate his memory. We are aware that there are some who are close to him who could not be here today but we feel their love and support just the same.
Dad was a wonderful, warm-hearted, funny and eccentric man. He was also irascible, difficult and stubborn but we are only going to focus on his best bits today. We are deeply grateful to our father for many things, our big noses, Crispin’s hair loss, our disregard for authority and rather smelly feet.
We are also very grateful to him for taking us out as children to fancy restaurants and the theatre, which in the 70’s was not a common approach to parenting in working class families. An appreciation for food, art and culture has remained with us throughout our lives. We both, in different ways, are life-long learners and have a thirst for knowledge and a curiosity about the world which has been heavily influenced by our father. Crispin said I have to say that he has also inherited Dad’s dashing good looks, compassion and sense of humour.
Our father’s theatrical style of parenting combined with a wicked sense of humour meant that he often dressed up as a vampire when we were watching Hammer Horror films as children. He thought this was incredibly funny but has resulted in neither of us being able to sleep in the dark. Luckily, his approach to cuisine meant that no vampire real or imagined would ever be able to get close to us.
We have both inherited his over optimistic ability to ‘finish a project’. We both horde useless objects in the hope that one day we will find a purpose for them. Cars are a particular favourite waste of time for both of us. We are grateful for the vision he bought of the rest of the world. He would often work away and come back with stories of food and culture which broadened our horizons, we both, particularly Crispin, love to travel.
We would also like to acknowledge our Mum today too though. She too has passed many qualities onto us and supported my father to pursue his many interests. We are grateful for her constant presence.
Finally, we are incredibly thankful to have been able to sit with Dad, to hold his hand, play him music and to reassure him as he made his final curtain call.
We would now like to read a piece which we feel sums up how we would like to think about Dad.
Death Is Nothing At All
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
(Canon Henry Scott-Holland)
I’m afraid I don’t think we will meet in the afterlife (sorry Sister Hazel) as Canon Scott-Holland probably meant when he wrote that final line. But I definitely meet Dad in my dreams, when I look at Crispin and to a lesser extent in my children.
A friend recently told me that grief initially feels like a huge rock, impossible to move. Gradually it lessens in size until eventually it is a small pebble in your pocket, always there, never forgotten. I think that grief is the price you pay for love and I can see that there will be lots of people who will carry a small pebble for Dad. He would have liked that.