Thirty years ago today my world almost fell apart.
A few days earlier I’d woken to find my Dad writhing in agony in his bed; Mum was beside herself calling and ambulance and the Doctor, then waiting what seemed like a lifetime for them to arrive. During that time I went to my bed, buried my head deep into my pillow and prayed. I had no idea what to pray, or how to pray. But I prayed the most heart-felt prayer I’ve ever prayed. From the very depth of my soul I asked God to ‘take the pain away’.
Dad was taken into hospital and I (9 yrs old) was taken to be looked after by a neighbour, along with my 11 yr old sister and six yr old brother. I really didn’t understand what was happening, and I don’t remember much about what we did that day. The next memory I have is of Mum getting a call from the hospital a few days later and her dashing off at speed.
Then we learned the news that Dad had died. I have absolutely no memory of how the news was broken to us. But I can still remember the feeling. It was like the world simply stopped. Everything around me stopped and nothing mattered. I remember looking at my Mum & my sister and expecting some kind of prompt from them about what to do next. But nothing came. Then we all hugged – and they cried. But I didn’t cry – I was still too numb to cry.
The next thing I remember is the day of Dad’s funeral; being dropped of at the house of a family friend and waving goodbye to Mum. I knew that she was going to say ‘good bye’ to Dad, but I really didn’t understand what that meant.
Then life started again. Or at least it was supposed to. It certainly wasn’t ‘normal’ life. But something pretending to be life started again. With it came the never-ending list of ‘firsts’. The first day back at school, the first time someone expressed their sympathy at my loss, the first Christmas, and so on, and so on. Gradually life took on a new kind of ‘normal’.
I said my world almost fell apart; almost, but not quite. I may have lost my Dad that day, but I still had the most amazing family, and together we managed to get through the worst of it.
Mum was (and is) the strongest & most amazing person. Supported by my Nan & Granddad (and countless friends!), she held the family together; working incredibly hard to provide for three young children & to bring us up well. We all had our wobbles along the way; dark days, lonely days & days when we could have happily thrown things at each other. But we all came out the other end of it and have always been a close family.
I don’t really remember ever talking to my brother or sister about how we were coping. But I’m convinced that simply knowing that they were going through the same as me, and surviving, spurred me on. I remember that we’d talk about Dad together though. And once we all realised that it was OK to talk about him without always feeling sad, then the laughter properly returned.
Honestly, I don’t have too many distinct memories of Dad. But what I do remember of him has left its mark & had a lasting impact on me. I remember him as a loving husband, a doting Dad, a thoroughly decent man who would go out of his way to help people; he had a wicked sense of humour and a riotous sense of mischief.
He has missed out on so much in our lives over the last thirty years. Most recently, and most significantly, the weddings of his children and the birth of his five gorgeous grandchildren. But he lives on in us and in them. We share many of his characteristics, and he remains part of our conversations with our children. Of course we wish he was here to enjoy their company (and they his) just was we wish he was here so we could share a pint or two together (thankfully, as kids we used to taste his home-brew with him, so we haven’t dipped out on that completely).
Thirty years can seem like an age – but it can disappear in the blink of an eye.
But thirty years on, we still love and miss you Dad…