Wednesday, 1 May 2013

My dad

Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.  (John Muir)

This is my lovely dad who died on March 20th 2013.  He was a GP who lived all his life in Stoke-on-Trent.  He was compassionate, gentle and committed to doing the right thing all his life.  I learned so much from him about the power of everyday goodness and being true to your promises, no matter what the personal cost.  He suffered for 30 years from rheumatoid arthritis - a cruel, disabling disease, which robbed him of so much enjoyment, particularly in retirement.

He started me on my path of discovery about the world by taking me to the Peak District and explaining that the green fields and valleys were only recent, that millions of years ago this was an ocean filled with extraordinary shellfish and strange creatures that no longer exist.  We broke open a piece of limestone and there was a perfect fossil of a shell. I remember very clearly the awe and wonder that left me spellbound - still does.

He spent his last years dedicating himself to caring for my mother who developed dementia.  His devotion to her was awesome and humbling.  He was so tired and exhausted from caring he could not fight pneumonia and he died in hospital.  I shall miss his wonderful humour, wise words and constant support.  To sit with him as he died was one of the most terrible but transforming experiences of my life. I love him more than words can say and miss him every single day.  A truly good, gentle, intelligent man has left the earth.

He loved his garden and the birdsong which filled the air in spring.  For his funeral I put together this recording of the birds in his garden with Lark Ascending.

Here is the script I wrote last June for Pause for Thought on Radio 2, which I dedicated to him:

Pause for Thought - Father's Day June 2012

When I sat down to write this Pause For Thought for Father’s Day I decided to say what I’d learned from my dad. But it wasn’t that simple. How to swim? No, that was my friend’s dad. To play chess? Yes a bit, but I remember he quite quickly got bored of that! In fact my dad wasn’t very hands-on in that way, not like my husband is with our children now – it was different in the 60s and 70s. I do remember he worked long hours and read the paper an awful lot. But I did learn something from him that I value above all other things –to appreciate the ordinary. This is what he did, and still does, day in and day out – he takes the ordinary things of life and transforms them by bestowing on them dignity and respect. That could be the washing up or meeting someone in the street, it could be going for a walk or going to a funeral – it doesn’t matter, because my dad taught me that life is made up of the ordinary things, not the extraordinary, it is made up of the humdrum, not the rare and impressive. Something American entrepreneur Jim Rohn also believes - Success, he wrote, is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. And success doesn’t necessarily mean becoming rich and famous – it means being contented and at peace with the world around you, knowing you are living your life in the here and now and to the best of your ability.
Jesus valued the ordinary – he really did. His friends and followers were ordinary, the parties he went to and the meals he shared were ordinary, he travelled in an ordinary way – but by living his life extraordinarily well he transformed everything around him. Indeed Christians believe he transformed the world.
Thank you dad for your advice and for living it too – have an extraordinarily happy Father’s Day.

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