This is a post that I never wanted to write and hoped that I wouldn’t have to for many a long year but sadly our time ran out last week and my dear old Dad passed away. As he has been the inspiration for so many of my stories it only seemed right that I pay tribute to my childhood hero the best way I know how.
So how do you say goodbye to someone who has been the constant light guiding your ship into harbour and the gentle wind that helps steer you across the sea onwards to new horizons; the honest truth is I don’t know that I can. My kind-hearted old Dad has always been the one that has been there for us like a solid anchor in a rough ocean. He never yearned for a bigger house, a faster car or a fortune; in fact, he truly believed his fortune lay within the family he raised, the home he built and in the flowers he grew. Although he was a retired electrical engineer it was simple pleasures that brought joy to his day like tinkering in his shed or digging out the weeds. His loving legacy is evident in his garden, his granddaughters and the laughter that echoes around the walls of our family home.
You see the thing is I don’t think I would ever have been ready to have said goodbye so I am left bereft and lost; a broken heart can do that to you every time. So thank you for your kind messages and my heartfelt thoughts go out to all those out there who are also struggling with their own loss.
So in the coming grief-stricken months there’ll be memories, more precious than rubies, packed away in lavender-scented tissue paper like a favourite old sweater which will be brought out to console us on our loneliest days.
I could be mistaken but last night when I looked up I’m sure there was an extra star burning brightly in the midnight sky shining over us just as the old fella did every day of his life looking out for those he loved.
“The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good”
Goodnight sunshine x
The Old Fella
Do you remember the scene in “Great Exotic Marigold Hotel” where Judi Dench’s recently widowed character was speaking with her broadband service provider and the call centre representative insisted on speaking only with the account holder? I have lived that scripted conversation with so many utility providers over the past few weeks resulting in endless calls, form filling and emails.There is no flexibility within their scripted conversations which enable them to deal with people struggling with huge emotional loss
This journey has been a big learning curve for me in so many ways I never thought it would be as hard for many different reasons; the heart-breaking handwritten notes that my Dad had left for me amongst his jumpers many still unworn, preferring instead to live in his gardening clothes. insisting that when he’d gone that the local charity shop take his old clothes “but no pick & choosing mind you”. The many clippings torn carelessly from gardening magazines and newspapers to be stored for later use. The pocket diaries where he had meticulously recorded the weather and his gardening schedule every day.
Dementia or Alzheimer’s is a hateful creature which creeps in and suddenly steals your familiar and beloved relative away replacing them with a complete stranger who no longer has the same interests or in some cases preferences. An acquaintance of mine dismissively suggested that caring for an adult with reduced mental capacity is no different from looking after a small child. I disagree with that entirely; an adult has a lifetime of financial responsibilities, cupboards full of memories, and a devastated family who overnight have lost a beloved relative. I have met some amazing people on this journey who have been like bottled sunshine on the rainiest of days but many others not so much.
Having reluctantly spent the weekend sorting through the old man’s treasured possessions which are little more than tatty junk, I have been reduced to tears by the discovery of my first school note-book, his communion medal, my niece’s first crudely written & misspelled love letter. What price can you put on a pocketful of memories precious only to the one who saved them? In a rare moment of clarity when I told my Dad I had found them he said “I know they’re not much but they meant a lot to me though”.
Irrespective of what the future may hold and how many cavalier individuals touch our lives, my old Dad will always be right there with me in the scent of wild garlic and Queen Anne’s lace rustling on a gentle spring breeze, a warm hand in mine on a cold winter’s day, the smell of wet earth after a summer shower but above all he will always be my very first hero.
Loss whether it’s through bereavement, divorce, separation or estrangement is one of the cruellest and often difficult emotions that we have to deal with during our lifetimes.
Grief sucks all the joy out of our lives and leaves us with a crippling sense of incomprehension. It’s hard moving on and starting all over again when you’ve been forced into an unwelcome change that was neither wanted nor expected. It’s the anesthetized sensation which causes the slow burn that spreads from your heart to your throat not to mention the dull pain in your head that thwarts sleep and inhibits daily mundane tasks.
It’s the quiet times you dread most of all when a fleeting memory comes crashing into your consciousness like a speeding bullet that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and disorientated. Grief’ll get you every time and the anger that follows wraps everything in your world in a grey dense foggy cloak which even the smallest brightest ray of sunshine is unable to penetrate.
Heartache is like an unwelcome intruder and I don’t think it ever goes away; not really. We just learn to live with it; one traumatized footstep at a time. The thing is there is no miracle cure for grief, no wonder drug that can ease our suffering because we think that if we did stop the hurting we might just find ourselves finally letting go when we’re scarcely ready if we ever are.
So if you find yourself in this situation, take your time, my friend; there is no wrong or right way to grieve. There can be no time frame when it comes to the healing process but above all be kind and patient with yourself because I promise that one day you’ll wake up and the sun will be shining again.
“The only people who think there’s a time limit for grief, have never lost a piece of their heart. Take all the time you need” – Anon