Preparing for Love
Posted on 16th June 2022 at 14:04
It has been a forever since I last wrote a blog piece. Covid arrived, and even though everything stopped, I realise that I didn’t have enough time to sit and meander in my thoughts.
Yet this week, I am meandering – and I am making time.
My father died on Saturday evening.
And the sunshine arrived.
I could write a novel about my dad – my siblings and I each nest a different part of my father in our being and like the bible story about the four blind men and the elephant – during this week we have been putting our stories together and discovering the fullness of who he was. He was love personified. I know that it is somehow easy in the death to paint a picture of perfection, and that is not true – he had his moments.
This piece of writing, however, is not about my father. It is about Love, and the preparation it can take to receive it.
In my work, I often talk about the importance of endings – that then, and only then do we arrive at the realisation of having mattered. I am going to start changing how I say that, somehow there has been some ethical dilemma about calling it Love and I’ve used the side word of mattering to be “therapeutically” safe. The truth is, in any ending – what we crave is the knowing we have been loved.
There is often a difficulty to this, if we have not learnt what safe love is as a child, we cannot comprehend its existence when it arrives. Instead in the aftermath of a traumatic ending – we head into our grief journey in pursuit of love and disguise it in irrelevance; how much inheritance we might receive or a dissection of final conversations.
I am writing this on day five of my grief journey and the harvesting of my father’s love. I notice how well prepared I am. On top of the many years of therapy and the enormous amount of support that I have – I am glad to say that my father and I had managed to pave the ground well for this. Over the last ten years, we have had conversations that were complicated and difficult, yet we had them. Any walls that had been built were demolished – there were no refugees or thoughts in exile. We cleared the space between us.
I need to say that again, because when I do – the air around me is so crystal clear.
We cleared the space between us. I reclaimed my hero.
With my father that was possible to do “in relationship” – he stepped into that wall demolishing as much as I did. With others, I have had to arrive prepared to do the work myself. With my mother, when I demolished the wall in a waterfall – she was not standing on the other side. And yet – the space is clear. It is prepared for the grief journey I will do when she leaves this earth.
On day one of my journey into the space my father and I made possible, I sat in his shed. I laughed, his radios and wires and screws and tools – are a much neater version of my craft cupboard. I touched his desk, and sat in his seat. The warmth of his hands was still there, he would have grabbed onto it for support to sit.
It has irritated me that my dad chose this space rather than coming up to hang out with me, yet in my grief – I find the reasons why; He was in so much pain and with a back that could not hold him up, he couldn’t be anywhere but at home. So instead, my father surrounded his shed with us.
On the wall, a poem I wrote for him when I was 20, accompanied by 3 little drawings my son did years ago. On the floor by his side, the table my son made at school last year and gifted him. There are pictures and drawings and little clay pots created by all of us. His poor body had stopped him leaving his house and we had all arrived in the busy-ness of our adult lives. And so he bought us all home to him.
There was not one spec of dust on any of it. He carefully tended to each treasure, in the same way that his hands had been the ones that bathed me as a child.
Over the last couple of days, I have been visiting landmarks of mine and my father’s life, harvesting the fruits of our relationship. A pond we gathered frogspawn in that escaped and filled the kitchen with tiny frogs, the house he built when I was a toddler, the house we lived in when my mother left, the house we moved to when he married my soul mother…… In each place his voice is so clear, his smile even clearer.
It is precisely because of our smashing the wall we co-built in my teens that I don’t keep trying to build it by reinforcing all the difficult things that happened. I sat outside 25 Nightingale Lane, and I can hear his laughter as he hosted yet another garden party full of girls. Through my adult eyes, I see the patience he had when I created a competition for all the kids in our road – I was a child and, completely inept at dealing with all the practicals – and yet he supported my idea and got it done.
Of course, he was part of my Facebook community. My father – ever present, ever there.
Several years ago, my soul mother and father moved house, and gifted us each with a box full of our childhood stuff and for several reasons I have not been able to go through it. I recovered it from the loft yesterday. In amongst my school reports, my birth certificate, and photos, my father gifted me a huge amount of his own childhood. It feels delicious. I have his school reports, I have postcards he sent to his parents whilst travelling. Yet one thing touched me more than anything; an utterly delightful letter sent to him by his big brother (11 years his senior).
At that time, big brother Terry had left home and was working far away in Germany, my father was a child and still at home and clearly struggling at school. Terry sends a letter with spellings and maths clearly laid out and a warning to my father to “be good or you will never get anywhere, and right at the bottom a delicious childlike drawing of “Phillip and Terry” holding hands – I have added it to this blog.
I was talking to my niece the other day, who asked where my father was – she is just 6. I am lucky to have inherited my father’s story telling technique, and after an age appropriate, laughter fuelled conversation about my dad’s body being in Spain, I told her about the most important bit of my father that is no longer on the earth. “There is the brightest sunshine that lives inside our hearts, and when we get old enough, and wise enough, it bursts out”. She sat with that for a bit, and then asked me the question my story would lead to; “does that mean his sunshine goes into the big sunshine?”.
How wonderful that as I walk in the clear space that my father and I prepared, the sun has arrived, and I absolutely know I was loved.
For the last few days my bedroom has become some sort of chapel,
Where sleep becomes a prayer.
Silent dreams escort me on a journey which will inevitably end at me waking,
And there – at the alter stands death holding hands with my father.
We like to imagine death is cruel,
Yet it is only the living that despise her gentle face
She is kindness personified.
I like to imagine in those last few moments,
She arrived and whispered
“It’s early, and it’s time”.
I say she has stolen him from me
And yet, he was only ever on loan.
I pleaded with her this morning – as I did yesterday;
Just one more day.
And she gifted me half an hour
From 6 – 6.30, he was still alive
And I told him I loved him
And he told me he loved me
I paid death with tears,
She gathered them to wash clean the next loved one
Who arrives in her care.
And so our world revolves
This is my father’s winter.
Share this post: