Last night I couldn’t sleep, aware that this time last year my beloved dad was fighting for his last breaths as I sat next to him.
Grief is a surreal experience, it can creep up on you in the middle of the night or ambush you when you are at your most unguarded – laughing with friends or joyfully enjoying the little things with kids.
This last year has been the longest 365 days in memory – even though the multiple strokes of the year before had robbed dad of so much, the loss of his smile, laughter and positive energy in my life has left such a void. When most of life speeds by, in this particular instance I feel like it has been a lifetime since we last hugged each other or I heard his voice.
I realised that his unfailing encouragement, enthusiasm, curiosity and support is what I miss the most. My mother is amazing and all of those things but so much has come up for me personally that I never imagined – there is no doubt it has rocked me to my core and made me really dig deep.
But despite it all there is a weird sense of optimism and renewed resilience too – that after dealing with the roughest few years of my life and the previously unimaginable that I feel stronger in the face of what else life might throw at me and also that perhaps some energy and focus is coming back into my own life.
Most of you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing my Dad, but even if you had met him only once you would have remembered him.
One of my lasting memories of my Dad was after multiple strokes, unable to do anything for himself, having food pureed and fed to him and often sitting next to him for hours with little or not response was showing him this episode of- Glaswegian comic Rikki Fulton and him almost crying with laughter.
The only other time we ever saw that reaction was when the music therapist came and sang old Scottish songs to him in his room.
A great lasting memory and true sign that when all else fails – love of laughter and music remains at our very essence.
Love you Dad, you are so very very missed and life and laughter is not the same without you.
My Father (read at his funeral)
Although small of stature Dad was a giant to me – a hero. An action man.
As I kid I wondered at his gymastic ability, boundless energy & love of adventure.
I loved just hanging out with him – wherever it was – going to scrap merchants, dropping off fridges, just being in his company was enough.
He never got stressed about anything- nothing was a problem, cars running out of petrol in a dodgey part of Glasgow, getting lost in the Swedish hinterland in the middle of the night.
To him- all just another way to broaden our horizons, explore new places, meet new people, experience the unknown.
When he left to work in the Middle East when I was just 11 – the distance was hard to deal with but his regular weekly letters with detailed maps of his apartments and hilarious blow by blow accounts of the minutiae of his everyday filled the gaps between visits.
Time spent was never enough. He was so warm, clever, entertaining, funny with funny voices and great stories of his desert adventures.
In 1989, when I was at St Andrews he surprised me on a business trip, bringing me a car and we hung out together just the two of us for the first time since childhood. He met my lecturers, my friends, my flatmates, came to the local coffee shop then we saw Macbeth in the castle ruins under the stars - drinking whisky from a hip flask to keep away the chill. After he treated my friends and I to dinner at posh local curry house and regaled the collected company and waiters til closing time. I glowed.
He was so talented at language – any language.
When I lived in Japan, I sent him copies of Katakana and Hiragana alphabets – within weeks I was receiving letters written in better Japanese than mine.
Dad was always up for a laugh, dressing up – a wig and silly glasses never went astray and this never really left him – i remember being a petulant 13 yr old in Paris and him cajoling me to into full black Saudi Abiyah with only the eyes showing – then he put on full Saudi gear and we walked blithly into the local Tabac – the place stopped and everyone stared open mouthed. We bought his rare treat – some cigars and left – laughing all the way back to the hotel.
Despite passing on his affinity for hats & always looking well put together – he did actually have no dress sense.
He had his own Personal Stylist – (My Mother) and like A list celebrities – only had to put on the pressed clothes laid out daily on his bed.
When left to his own devices it was a lottery – he could easily turn up covered in oil, clashing colours, old ripped rugby shorts, long socks, swedish clogs and a fur trapper’s hat – caring not a jot.
There are so many things I will miss about him – his bad Sean Connery impression, how he rubbed his hands together when he got excited and his infamous “document checks”.
Dad’s “document check” involved you him saying “document check ” whenever you left the house, to go on a trip or to just return home- to which you needed to show your phone, wallet, keys and any other important item . This happened often over the phone from another country.
It used to drive me crazy and finally a few years ago I cracked – “Dad I am in my forties, married with kids and run several businesses – can you please stop the document check thing ? he did.
The next day I left on a trip to a friend’s wedding in Sydney – and promptly forgot house keys, phone and Jason’s wedding suit hanging in the hall.
I am sad sometimes that I had kids later in life so he was no longer able to do somersaults from high diving boards and run around with them. Whenever he used to find me sitting reading a book he would say ” do you need something to do – there is a hoover doing nothing ? ” – it was a twisted joke that we used to share right up until the very end.
I have received so many messages from shopkeepers, doctor’s receptionists , acquaintances, old friends and new and all have said the same thing – he was funny, generous to a fault, made people feel special and interesting, great to be around and their fond memories of his smile, laughter and good times will comfort them.
I am so glad that we managed to spend so much time together recently and I thank my husband Jason for his selfless offer to move from our dream life in Sydney three years ago.
This last year with the mulitiple strokes and seizures and his decline has been especially tough for everyone. However one thing that endured was his smile and his eternal optimism to the amazement of his carers, doctors and all around him.
I just want to try and read a poem that kind of sums up how I think Dad would feel about this whole situation of dying.
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
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.