Wondering Wednesdays – thirty years ago today…

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For those of you who are thinking this is a bad photograph, I took it like that purposefully = reflecting the light and shadows and dark places of my memories. This is an ashtray, over forty years old, one of the few physical reminders I have of my Dad who died thirty years ago today. I can still recall the phone call telling me the news, I was living away at that time and Dad hadn’t even been ill. I can still recall my very pregnant friend, Elaine, driving me home. I can still recall slipping into what was my old bedroom and seeing my Dad’s dead body before the funeral director took it away. I can still recall the funeral visit where all I really heard was the Vicar wondering why I didn’t worship at an Anglican church anymore! I still have the grey suit I wore to the funeral – not that it would fit me anymore!

I have now lived longer than my Dad lived – by 2 days. His birthday was two days after mine. Positively, if I look back over my life I am very blessed by what I see, I have accomplished much I never would have expected and some things didn’t happen the way I thought they would. I have very, very few regrets. Dad’s death taught me that we have no idea how long our life may be, I have hopes and dreams, I don’t have a bucket list. But as I write this the tears are streaming down my face for the years I didn’t have with Dad, for the things he missed, that I missed. With a difficult teenage relationship largely behind us I was slowly getting to understand how he became who he was and although I don’t really remember it I have heard stories of how he would endlessly read Rupert the Bear stories to me and I think that must have been one of the roots of my love of reading. He built a Wendy House for me in the garden and I remember all the happy hours I spent in that with my tea sets and dolls! He never met Paul although spoke once on the telephone to him…

This was not written today – I have a wise friend who never posts things on the day she writes them if they are about difficult things and today I am teaching for six hours and need to have largely processed the grief which hits at different levels each year. I think this year is perhaps harder because the number ends in a zero and my lifespan now eclipses his. I also recall the picture I took of the beautiful flowers my friend Sheena gave me on the day of the funeral, I took them back to Sutton with me and have a picture of them with a rainbow behind them which was a sign for me that although it felt a little like my world had ended I could trust in my God who was my Father too.

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5 thoughts on “Wondering Wednesdays – thirty years ago today…

  1. Thank you for sharing what you did Sally. You have been and continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. I had been trying to work out the significance of the photo before I read your blog. I thought it was maybe to do with the number of coloured circleson it but if I can count properly I think it has 29 – maybe the missing one is your Dad as the tray as a whole represents him.

    I found comfort in your words as I think we still live in a culture where death isn’t spoken about, or that it is ok to talk of at the time but not after. I don’t think anyone can comprehend what it is like for a parent to die until they have experienced it themselves. My experience was totally different, because Mummy was terminally ill. I can’t imagine the shock of suddenly being told your Dad had died. For me, much of my grieving went on when Mummy was still alive. I felt priveledged to journey with both her and my Nan (who died 1yr apart) on their journey. A journey that in some ways led to death but others to life; a journey very hard to explain.

    Like you I can remember specific things that happened that day. It was Christmas eve. I remember going out just to let a few of the neighbours with young children know that the funeral directors would soon be coming. There were people everywhere with bags of shopping and crates of beeer in their hands. In many ways I felt as if we were living different lives, or maybe that theirs had carried on and mine had stopped.

    Both through my personal experience of illness and through the deaths of Mummy, my Grandparents and sister in law, I too have learnt that we have no idea how long we will be here on earth and that we must treasure each moment as if it were our last (something I do not always live out but have built deep into me).

    I found comfort in the fact that you talk of grief 30 years on. Mummy died just over 5.5yrs ago and I still miss her so much. Maybe with me having been ill for most that time it has made things worse, I don’t know, but sometimes it almost feels as if it is wrong to still be grieving. I take such comfort in my faith, in the knowledge that she is no longer suffering and she is in heaven but nothing can replace the physical loss. Sometimes I see people quite a bit older than me out with their parents or even grandparents and I often find myself feeling jelous or asking God “why?” I normally then feel guilty for these thoughts, but I think of all we wanted to share together and how different life would probably be now if she was still alive. It would have been her 60th birthday this year and as I sat on a bench in a church yard (not where her ashes are) I couldn’t stop crying. Like you my life has light and darkness in it but even at times when maybe it is hard to feel God is there, I am blessed with an eternal Father who I know will always be by my side no matter what.

  2. It is extremly hard and in many ways that is why I cannot cope with being ill. My life from a very young age has been totally about family and ministry. I have always had friends but they have tended to be family friends or people I worked alongside, rather than friends of my age and looking back I can see that it was a great failing of my own, but maybe for deep rooted reasons, that I never built up a long term support network of friends. It is hard when you are ill. Everyone has their lifes to live and maybe at times I know at times I even pushed people away because I didn’t want to be a burden.

    I had always taken family for granted but I have a family photo taken a few years ago and looking at it fills me with so many questions as I look at each member (of what was a VERY close family) and think of their stories. Many are now dead-Mummy. Nanny, my Grandad, my sister in law; I don’t have any contact with my niece (something that deeply grieves me); my brother is in prison; my aunt and uncle seperated after 30yrs of marriage; my cousin is waiting to go into an alcohol rehab; one aunt has had cancer and more recently a heart attack; Daddy has 2 types of cancer and my aunts ex boyfriend is sleeping rough on the streets as I write this.

    It has been the cumulative effect of loss, trauma and illness that has affected me most. I could deal with alot, but that was with my family there-they along with God were my rock. Now with so few family and hardly ever going to church I struggle far more than I like to admit (I prefer to pretend everything is ok). I think people struggle with me too! Maybe part of it is my stuborness but I know it is so much more than that. My deepest sense of bereavement is at the loss of friends through the way some church ‘friends’ treated me. I hope I wouldn’t respond in the same way they did if put in a similar situation but I know that as a family we went (and continue to go through so much) in such a short space of time that I’m not supprised I was so misunderstood.. I had grown up to repond in certain ways; to hide my tears from others; to just get on with life, but few saw how that could be. To them I was responding wrong. But is there a right or wrong way to respond to bereavement (be it through death or loss) or is this just percieved? Maybe I was wrong not to show my emotion, but that is just how I am. Every day it eats away as I long to forgive but do not know how when I don’t even know who said or thought what. I simply know that the day my brother went to prison our whole family were looked at by so many like criminals and the day I was raped it was as if I became a leper. I simplly responded how I knew and that was a response built upon the loss and trauma I had experienced in such a short time. I don’t think time can take away the physical sense of loss, but I know Mummy would have wanted me to live life to the full…something I long to do so much but just don’t know how when I am ill.

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