Having written just a month ago about grief, I am devestated to say that my father passed away this week.
He has been ill for many months so it wasn’t a surprise. He went quietly as he would have wanted to: fell asleep holding my mum’s hand and slipped silently from this world during the night. We had a lot of time during his illness to share our love and our feelings with him, so he went having ensured that we weren’t left with ‘things unsaid’ – those things which can become toxic after someone’s passing.
But it is still unimaginable to me that this world continnues to exist without him in it. I believe that he is with God, and that his spirit will live on – those that we have loved never truly leave us. So I thought I would use this post to celebrate that spirit and his life, and share some of the lessons he has given me over the years which I will take with me and keep sharing with my children.
- There are some areas where you shouldn’t try to save money. Namely: books, wine, cheese. Books are something I try not to keep buying, partly so my home doesn’t end up with teetering stacks of books in every corner and partly so I can give up on a book I’m not enjoying rather than feeling the need to see it through ‘since I paid for it’. But I am prepared to rethink this one to pay respects to my dad.
- Making people feel loved means seeing who they are and what they need. He came into my life at 14, becoming my step-dad. I call him my dad out of love and respect – and because that is who he really was for me. From the day we first met, he was someone who created a feeling of love and respect with such a simple grace, largely by really trying to understand who I was, how I felt and what I needed. And that effort and level of care was always the bedrock of our relationship, and meant that I could talk to him and rely on him for anything.
- Then you show them that love. As a man born in 1939, my dad was maybe not an obvious candidate for showing emotions. But my kids and I have always felt supported on a kind of cloud of love and affection. When we were living overseas he sent a weekly package of cuttings from the newspaper (often with speech bubbles or other commentary so it was clear where he stood), letters, and little notes he had taken about things we’d be interested in. I find little cuttings, notes and letters, throughout my house: tucked into recipe books, or mixed in with the kids’ stuff. And I love to see them.
- Poetry is not a luxury. He really loved poetry and is one person who consistently gave me books of poetry as gifts. It’s not something I do for myself, but every few weeks I pick up one of these books, let it fall open, and just enjoy the small, beautifully written treat within. I added this activity – poetry i-Ching if you will – into a list of ‘5 minute treats’ recently and I love it.
- Love hard. It’s worth it. My parents got married after messy divorces on both sides. They learned to trust each other, and built a successful life and family. That’s a lesson worth learning.
- Unconditional love is rarer than you think. My dad was the only person who cried with joy when I finished my PhD (apart from me but I cried with relief) and I gave them a bound version which referenced them in the acknowledgements. For my mum, it was too tied up in needing to compare my achievements with my siblings. But for my dad, it was much more simple: “You did a great thing. And I couldn’t be prouder.”
- Cycling drunkenly into a hedge is a family thing. Don’t sweat it. (Just gonna leave that one there without an explanation!)
Grief is hard. Loss is hard. Relationships with our parents and family can be hard. Parenting and trying to get it right can be hard. But it’s not all hard, or not always. It’s a beautiful, tight hug from someone who really knows and loves you, whatever your flaws. A hug that you can still feel long after they have gone.
Thanks for being here with me at this difficult time. This blog is about all the things that make up a life, and grief and love are part of that. Now go and give someone a hug, or a call, and tell them you love them.