Ten years ago, on Sunday June 10th 2007, I was awoken at seven in the morning by the phone ringing. It was my brother, calling to say that our father had died in the early hours of that warm June day.
I have written of this several times, and have published my Eulogy separately. I shall not repeat these today.
We all know, in our heart of hearts, that there is a high probability that our parents will die before us; but, when we are children, this seems unreal and light-years away. The knowledge of mortality which we hold in adulthood still does not prepare us for the wrenching grief of the actual event.
I think there is altogether too much emphasis on speedily coming to terms with things; with finding the instant silver lining in clouds; in showing the world that we have let go and moved on at a finger’s click. I am not, for one moment, saying that these are not the desired outcomes ultimately. They are. We have to jettison baggage from one phase in order to walk down our lives’ paths more buoyantly and confidently.
But there is an increasing sense of spiritual competition, of Acceptance One-up-man-ship, abroad in the world. We try to outdo one another in our speeches claiming total healing, dramatic letting-go moments, cosmic realisations, angelic visitations and the like.
It sometimes feels as if the human need simply to feel unutterably raw, to cry constantly, to get angry, to mourn for as long as WE need is only valid if our ticket to Grief’s Event is marked by other-worldly moments of wisdom: The ability, for example, to end a Death Sharing with an acknowledgement of Heaven’s reality, death’s inevitability or a voice telling us that our dead loved one is watching us from Above.
But, when emotions are heightened by visceral loss, we do not always want – and are not always able – to be enlightened, spiritually articulate or proselytising about the bigger picture. Death of a parent tends to trigger the needy child and, when that phase is at its height, the more rational adult cannot always get through – and perhaps has no place anyway.
Sometimes in the immediate post-death period, and like the children we never really stop being, we just want to burst into storms of tears and face the human fact that, divine truths notwithstanding, our loved one is no longer in our lives and is, in all probability, lying, stiff and cold, in a mortuary somewhere not too far away.
We are under no obligation to prove to anyone else that we have got over/got through one of life’s signpost grief stiles. We all find peace – or fail to – at different times and in markedly different ways. We will all lose our parents eventually, if we have not done so already – and the darkness of mourning, without the expectation of comforting bursts of borrowed wisdom, is part of that journey.
There is a Daddy-shaped hole in my world which can never be filled by anyone else. This doesn’t mean that I spend my every waking moment crying. I don’t. Ten years on, the wound has become a gentle and occasional ache. Memories, like old photos, have faded to sepia. Triggers cause flashes of red pain, but they are fewer and further apart.
But 7 am on June 10th still has the power to wake me, as it did this morning, with a jolt. The echo of my brother’s voice can still resonate and ring.
Ten years ago…