Time Heals…Just Very Slowly

8 08 2014

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The problem with time is that you don’t realize how little of it there is of it until it’s gone. We are all guilty of thinking that we have enough of it to do everything that we hope – or want – to do, without really appreciating that the clock starts ticking from the moment that we arrive screaming into the world.

Henry Rollins, ex-lead singer of Black Flag and one of my favorite spoken-word performers, has often talked about how important even individual minutes are, citing the fact that people who are unable to negotiate quickly through airports are – in many ways – robbing him of precious moments. Granted, the man spends the majority of his existence flying from one location to another and, presumably, he has got his travelling etiquette down to a fine art, but the fact is that we rarely know how much time we have.

In February of this year, my father passed away. Ten months after being diagnosed with cancer, he lost his battle and departed this mortal coil. Everybody dies, it’s an unquestionable fact. But it doesn’t make things any easier, knowing that you will never see somebody again or that you will never have the chance to talk or even laugh with them in the future.

People often have a standard response to the news that a loved one is no longer with us, most of which are intended to provide comfort. They have gone “to a better place,” or they are now looking down on us from above. Of course, these are words that have little real meaning during the grieving process, most of which is spent thinking about the hole that a person has left behind. And, once again, time becomes the issue.

“It was his/her time,” “when it’s your time,” “it’s time to let go.” In the last six months, I have heard all of these seemingly stock phrases, most of them in the days and weeks following Dad’s death. The friends and relatives that have said them mean well, but they disguise a fear of their own mortality, an acceptance that one day somebody will be applying the same sentiment to the end of their lives.

Those who take solace in religion will tell you that that person is no longer suffering, is now able to enjoy their reward in heaven and that they will be waiting for us in a venue that seems to have no overcrowding issues – despite the fact that the dead have been relocating there for hundreds of years.

Today is Dad’s birthday. He would have been 72. Every year I tried to get him something that he didn’t have – a near-impossible task that inevitably required the input of my mother and was almost always related to a book that he wanted…one of the few things that we had in common was a love of print and physical rather than virtual reading.

It goes without saying that the last few months have been tough, just one of the reasons why I haven’t been active in the blogosphere…but without him wanting to read some of my latest musings, I have found it difficult to get motivated.

However I wanted to get something up today, just to let people know that he is never out of my thoughts.

At his over-crowded memorial service in February, I read aloud my final letter to him, and it just seems appropriate that I reproduce it here, on a blog that he read and (occasionally) agreed with. If you want to know what I said on February 14, then feel free to click the button – but only if you have the time.

Dear Dad,

Of all the letters I never wanted to write, this one is probably at the top of my list. And while my first thought was to procrastinate, I know that this isn’t the time.

 I have been building a bank of memories that I can return to whenever I need some confirmation of the times we had together, the games we watched and the massive role you played in making me the man I am today.

 And I need them now. Because you aren’t here to make any more, and there is nothing I can do about that. It wasn’t all unicorns and ice cream, but even when things were difficult, you preferred love rather than judgment.

 No son ever wants to contemplate the possibility of his Dad not being there, but deep down we all know that one day this will happen. And we accept that we will be asked to stand in front of family and friends, reminding them of what a great man you were and your achievements as a father.

 I just thought that you would be different. Not immortal…just here.

 That you would power on through my life as you always had – a larger-than-life presence that sat on my shoulder as opposed to looking over it. Over the last few years, that was always a comfort to me, knowing that you were there, ready to dispense advice and guide me in the right direction…with the occasional discussion about sport thrown in for good measure.

 But you were so much more than that. You were the reason why I decided to give the world of insurance a ten-year trial period, the source of my love for a certain team in North London, the driving force behind my decision to attend college as a “mature” student and the man who made sure that I understood the importance of loyalty and hard work to achieve set goals.

 Sometimes I didn’t listen, and there were moments when I thought I knew the best way to proceed. Occasionally, I got it right, but for the most part, I would think to myself “what would Dad do?”

 I am probably not the only person who took time to ask themselves that question – your influence and encouragement spread far beyond the family unit, I lost count of the number of people who saw you as an inspirational figure and who gained so much from simply knowing you.

 You had your faults…an ongoing battle with emerging technology, a five-minute threshold for being offered a drink in restaurants and the belief that Mum entering a room was connected to the loss of an England wicket…but they were part of you, a small price to pay for your presence in our lives.

There are so many things that I want to thank you for, that I don’t know where to start. You took me to my first football match, my first concert and my first Bond movie. You were there when I needed you, supported me when I faltered and provided encouragement every step of the way.

This is the time when all of us want to remember what you did and how much you achieved, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to list everything. Because you had such a rich life, and you were there for so many important moments, that leaving any of them out wouldn’t seem right.

To paraphrase a well-known quote about our beloved Lilywhites, life is about glory and doing things in style.

And you did that. Not everybody gets to live the sort of life that you did and not everybody has a personal CV that ticks most – if not all – of the boxes.

Whether it was representing the MCC on a golf tour, flying on Concorde for a lunchtime business meeting in New York, watching your children and grandchildren be recognized for their own achievements or being able to appreciate the beauty of a walk-off home run at Fenway Park, you squeezed every drop out of life – and often dragged us along for the ride.

 And for that…I thank you and I love you. I just wish that I could say it to you one more time.

 We will all miss you… but we will take strength from remembering your generous nature and the impact that you had on our lives. You loved your family and we loved you…despite everything.

 I am proud to be your son…always and forever.

 Sleep well, Dad, you deserve the rest.

 All my love,

 Dave

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