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Preparations for days like these are challenging, especially given the numbness that descends in the surreal atmosphere of the days immediately following the death of a loved one.
It is a blessing, I suppose, that there is such a daunting list of things to be done.
Well, we got here relatively smoothly, and the fact that it went so smoothly is, I think, a credit to dad's example to his family.
His sons, faced with an intimidating task, focussed instead on what was practical and important: saying our personal farewells to dad, arranging todays ceremonies and ensuring that mum was, and will continue to be, supported.


 

Unfortunately for me, the email obituary we composed between us now contains a number of the phrases I had originally planned to use today. Surely, though, in a life as rich and unceasingly industrious as dad's, there is a bottomless well of subject matter.

 

But, how do you write a eulogy? It's not as if, fates willing, we get to practice very regularly.

What do you mention? What do you omit?

How long do you monopolise the podium for..............................?


 

Given that eulogies are, by their nature, subjective, do all the sterling qualities or amusing anecdotes we cite have to be strictly accurate and verifiable? Indeed, does the government have a committee for 'Eulogical' Veracity yet?

...sorry, just checking for cameras...

 

Indeed, how appropriate are amusing anecdotes and jokes?


 

I recall, for instance, being, as any child would be, in awe of my dad's consummate skills as a handyman. I picture him even now, manfully rubbing down a second floor window frame, his ladder, in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work act of... 1874, was firmly planted on the somewhat damp and slightly algae covered flagstones of our backyard in New Longton. To this ten year old child, he was the very Michaelangelo of the Mortar; the Picasso of Putty, the Cezanne of Sanding Down.
I eventually pulled myself away and stepped indoors.
Shortly after, we were startled by the sound of aluminium clattering against unyielding york stone accompanied by a muted curse.
We rushed out to find that dad's modest Sistine Chapel had ungratefully rejected his scaffolding.
We found him sitting, for the most part, on the now horizontal, and neatly folded, ladder.

He had, we learned soon after, broken his leg in the fall, but with a strangely puzzled frown reminiscent of the best Clint Eastwood movies, he spat out the now empty filter of his Senator cigar, and growled “Anyone seen me glasses?”
He was one tough cookie, our dad.

 

The departure of ones we cared for will always give us pause for recollection and reflection not just on their lives but on how our own lives were affected by having crossed theirs.

I think I can say, without fear of contradiction, that for many of us here today, having this man's presence in our lives has, in one way or another, made us better people in our own.
He was, to me, a man with his own unwavering code of duty, courage, faith and personal values.

Dad, you never were much of a one for lie-ins but, along with the rewards your beliefs promise you, I wish you peace now and a well-deserved rest.


 

wsdante: (Default)


Fairly 'urgent' call from Bro #1 last Friday had me seeking car hire and organising my absence with Candia then heading up north to see dad on the Sunday.

I got there about 15.30hrs to be greeted by Bro #1 who suggested I 'brace myself'. Not to put too fine a point on it, dad was visibly - and audibly - in his last hours. I held his limp hand for a while and tried to see recognisable features in the gaunt face before me.  It was difficult, but I managed. I then kissed his brow and went to join the others.

I had hugs with mum and got up to speed with the list of things that needed doing/organising for mum then said farewell to #1 (who needed to catch his flight back to Deutschland). As I had just done nearly 6hrs driving, I went for a snooze while Bro #2 attended mum and dad.
Almost immediately - actually 45mins later - #2 woke me with the news that dad had only just passed away.

I went in to dad and sat for some time waiting to feel something. Beneath the numbness, there was something like relief. Relief that this once tough, vibrant, powerful presence in my life no longer had to endure the frustration at the increasing impotence brought about by the condition that slowly claimed him cell by cell.   

As I write this, there have still been no tears to speak of. I know I could make myself cry if I wanted to, but I think I want to be sure that I know what I'm crying for before I let them come.  

#4 was informed but didn't want to come over, preferring, I guess, to remember dad alive. 

The rest of the day consisted of phone calls and doctors and the rest. The regular nurses came over and laid dad out nicely - he even seemed to have a slight, but peaceful smile on his face when they had finished.

Mum was worried that people would think her wierd because she wanted to spend one more night by his side. #2 and I assured her that there was nothing wrong with that at all. The two of them had had barely a handful of nights apart in the 49 years they had been married. If it helped mum adjust, we would support it. Even the nurses agreed.

I picked up a chinese takeaway that evening and mum ate well. After #2 left, I saw mum to bed and went and crashed in the spare room.  
I slept v badly. At about 5.30, I gave up and made a start on the spreadsheet #4 had set up to list contact numbers of friends and relatives to be informed.
Mum slept in till 9am. I had to wake her up with a cuppa. I suppose it was the first night in quite a while that she hadn't ben woken to tend to dad.

I got back home on Wednesday. The remaining days up north were spent making myself useful with all the practical and necessary stuff. 
There are differences in religious standpoints between #4 and #3 which have 'problem' potential, but so far, preparations for the service and cremation on 6th March are going ok, I think. 

I have a 'slot' during the cremation service to say a few words and I think this might challenge my wordsmithing skill. I had a rough draft a few days ago but I poached off it to do the first draft of the obituary.

It might be good to start afresh anyway.

We'll see, I suppose.      



   

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wsdante

December 2011

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