Sunday 17th January
I am deeply touched by the care, support and prayers that we have received following my Dad’s sudden death.
Coming to terms with the sudden loss of someone who has always been there for you is fairly devastating. I am walking slowly with grief and feel very consoled and comforted by great memories and his going from us with nothing unresolved. Whilst pretty devastated at his going, exacerbated by the suddenness, I am hugely consoled by the knowledge that he was ready to go, he’d been with all of his children, grand children and great grandchildren within his last week and the full results of the post mortem that we have just received indicate that he went out like a light not long after he rang me to say he’d called the doctor. The Wool Shop next door to us is owned and run by Ann, a lovely lady who lost her mum last week. In sharing a kindred sense of loss we reflected that it is the loss of both parents which carries that extra sting. They who have always been there for you are no longer around and it is a salutary reminder of the circles and patterns of our mortal life span that I am now part of that senior surviving generation.
Dad was a genuinely good man. He has struggled since my mum died. He was very much in the shadow of her who had a very gregarious, outgoing character. He was the model of selflessness and was both gentle and humble. I’m reminded of his slightly obsessive compulsive tendencies in the amount of junk, [sorry – detail filled information!] that he kept on so many unnecessary things but nevertheless probably helpful in all the legal stuff that has to be sorted out.
It’s also fascinating to gain a deeper understanding of the kind of person my Dad was. From my Mum, I learned about hospitality and generosity and from my Dad, gentleness and selflessness. Going through my Dad’s papers it’s been heartening and challenging to see what they’ve revealed. Partly because of his selflessness, my father hardly ever indulged in anything for himself. The only exception to this was his interest in photography. Following his retirement, he upgraded his camera and bought himself a very nice Olympus SLR which brought him much pleasure. For those who sat through his slide shows, [a few interesting minutes and hours of boredom or in my mum’s case an opportunity to cat nap!].
As for other things, it puzzled me that he didn’t spend more money on himself. He had good clothes but a very limited wardrobe. He loved driving but after some quality company cars for years he ended up buying some ordinary motors in his retirement. I have a better car than him! However, reading through his correspondence and going through his bank account you see that he understood what Jesus talked about when he said it is more blessed to give than to receive. My parents together supported over 30 charities on a regular basis. My Mum would offer a heart response to situations that she felt compassion for and therefore her giving was generous but erratic. My Dad’s giving was more thoughtful and considered and his breadth of understanding about the charities that he supported was quite comprehensive. There are many causes that are poorer for my Mum & Dad’s going. Now, part of me says, I could have had the money, but a much larger part of me says ‘good on them’. Whilst we have been the recipient of their help from time to time they clearly never lost sight of others who were in greater need. So whilst I am poorer materially by their actions, I am richer by far spiritually and really proud of my parents.
As I’ve said, on a number of occasions they have been amazing parents. They went through a difficult stage during my mid-teenage years but they grew out of it by the time I was 20!
Philip Larkin famously wrote in his poem on parents:
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”
No they eff’ing didn’t! Quite the contrary. Now I am not oblivious to their faults and failings but my parents overwhelmingly blessed me and whilst heartbroken at their going from us, I am profoundly grateful for them and the good inheritance of values and experiences that have moulded and shaped me for good. I’m also aware that sadly, for a lot of people, poor parenting has damaged their lives and contributes to the lack of wellbeing in society. It’s hard work, it’s a joy and privilege, we make loads of mistakes but good parenting is so important.
Of course, the reward for attempting to parent well is being a grandparent. I absolutely love being a Granddad and can honestly say that it is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A special bond can exist between grandparents and grandchildren which is wonderful. Shirley and I went to Oxford to be with Jessica, Nick and our latest grandchild, Gabriel, on Jess’s birthday at the weekend and we attended church together on Sunday morning. Talk about making an entrance. It had been our intention to slip in at the back unnoticed, only for the church to be packed and, you’ve guessed it, the only spare seats were on the front row! Luminous green buggy and all the paraphernalia that now accompanies babies and their parents, which was never the case in our day, we provided considerable entertainment or irritancy, as we shed our coats, hats, gloves, baby carry, nappy changing bag etc, etc. Anyway it was a lovely to be together but a poignant reminder of the circles of life and death. For there we were with young Gabriel but mindful that his Great Granddad had died and now I belonged to the older generation.
It’s been a difficult start to the New Year, after what was what for us as a family a really good Christmas at home and a delightful, restful three days at my cousin’s in Norfolk.
It is an eventful year for us all and one of many challenges, encouragements and opportunities which will demand much of us and what with my Dad’s death and what has been up till today appalling weather conditions for travelling it has not aided a smooth start to our year. Nevertheless I am looking forward very much to the coming months and am profoundly encouraged and grateful for great friends and good companions with whom we share our lives together.