Death of a Parent: Ten Years on…

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…


14 thoughts on “Death of a Parent: Ten Years on…

  1. Thank you. How beautifully written and touching.

    My father passed away six years ago at the age of 94. I was a late arrival and grew up with “old” parents and was possibly more aware of their mortality than would be the norm. It was still heartbreaking though when I received the call, much like in your case We are blessed to have them enrich our lives and every day they have shared with us leaves us the better for it. To those still fortunate enough to have their parents in their lives, call frequently, visit and always part in love.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We share an ancestral anniversary! Today, 7 years ago today, we celebrated the life of my own father as we sent his soul on its way. Still catch myself “I’ll call dad – he’ll know…” at unexpected moments. ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I cried reading that Ali.
    So completely true and put into words so well. Visited my moms grave on Thursday.
    She is buried in Bedford a few graves away from her mother, as she always said were her wishes.

    She didn’t know she was going to die. It was a very quick stroke.

    I have spent many years trying different strategies as to find the least painful way to spend that day, 25yrs worth.
    I really love that you feel able to convey your feelings into words. Shared experiences I feel comforting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my own father 21 years ago ad miss him terribly. I have found comfort in lighting a candle whenever we visit a church or on specific days, even though I am not religious. With Ftaher’s Day next week, we’ll be up to the Abbey to light 2.
    He visits me in my dreams sometimes, whole and well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The pain of losing a parent is huge, Alienora. We do come to acceptance after a time of grieving but that doesn’t mean that we don’t desperately miss that person. We just learn to live without them and enjoy our memories of them. Sometimes the memories will bring back the pain. It think that is what makes us human.

    Liked by 1 person

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