Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I am sure many of us feel the same. As soon as we become aware of the reality of death we start to worry about losing our parents - that probably started for me around the time, aged four or five, when I sat on our garden wall wondering if there was a God or not. I came to the conclusion that if not ,that would mean the Queen was in charge.......wasn't quite sure how I felt about that! - and I guess we never stop worrying, the only difference being is that as they age the inevitable draws closer.
A few weeks before Christmas my Dad was admitted to hospital following a stroke. Although he was weak we were delighted he was allowed out a few days before Christmas, just as we were moving back into Luton. I was looking forward to being near to my parents and being able to invite the family round on Christmas Day was a great blessing. Sadly on Christmas Day evening my Dad had another fall and was readmitted to hospital. Early on New Year's Day we were all called down as he had taken a turn for the worse. Thankfully he pulled through, but never regained his ability to swallow. We had another precious few days with him before he slipped away early this Monday morning. After the distress he had often been in, finding it difficult to communicate, hating the drips and masks and other restrictions, we were thankful his final hours were peaceful.
In the midst of the carnage in Gaza, which in normal circumstances as you would expect, I would have a lot to say, it may seem an indulgence to talk about the death of a man who at 79 had had "a good innings" , but I guess for me it is a reminder of how precious every human life is. I have the comfort of knowing my Dad got the best care in hospital, has lived in peace and security all his adult life and had been able to have his family around him without restriction. In Gaza, he may well have already had to deal with the intense pain of losing children and grandchildren, or have seen them suffer through lack of proper medical care, or have lived with the constant fear of attack. But, since I have this blog, it would seem a huge omission to allow his passing to go without comment, please indulge me, or turn off now.
My Dad loved children, having along with my Mum produced five of us I am glad he did! As a child I remember the fun we had, he always had the most amazing sense of humour, which endured right until the end. Although it would probably be frowned upon now, every Saturday night we had a family "Port and Lemon" party (only the smallest dash of port of course!) dancing to Herb Alpert, Jim Reeves et al, and then, quite regularly, that party would be extended to include all the neighbours. Of course we would get packed off to bed, but would often stay awake listening to the singing, or peeping through the curtains as my Dad lead the revellers around Corncrake Close doing the conga! Sometimes, we would wake at 6 or 7 in the morning to find the party still in full swing, amused to see the adults taking turns on the slide.
My Dad also had a very caring side. He could never bear to see anyone suffering and would always go out of his way to help others. I will never forget the day he came home in tears and asked us all to sort out toys for him. He had been to a family where they also had many children, but they had no toys. And it wasn't our cast offs he took, I will never forget that he also took our much loved rocking horse, but gave us all a better understanding of how privileged we were. When his best friend developed motor neuron disease he was devastated and constantly tried to come up with inventions to make life easier for Tom. I well remember the contraption he devised that meant Tom could turn pages by slightly moving his head, in order to be able to continue to read.
He was also a bit clever, with an IQ of 160, but always regretted that his family had not been able to afford to send him to university. A veracious reader with an amazing general knowledge, we always used to urge him to go on Mastermind, his response was that he wouldn't have a specialist subject. This despite the fact that he would read and reread Churchill, Pepys, Kipling.........and of course Spike Milligan :-).
Unlike his shop steward, old Labour brother Ken (who was nick named Red Ken at Vauxhall in the days of Red Robbo), my Dad did not have a strong political allegiance. He would waver among the parties, but I am pleased to say that in later years he was a Lib Dem voter! But he and his sister Lindy, did instill in me a strong commitment to social justice and an irreverent attitude to authority!
All over Luton are buildings designed by my Dad and he has left a physical legacy in bricks and mortar, but he has also left a far more important legacy in our hearts. I know I will never match him in intellect, compassion or humour......................but I know he will continue to be my inspiration for as long as I live.
A few days before he died I passed on messages from two dear friends, Chrissie and Simon, that they sent their love and were praying for him. Though his speech was so difficult to understand he asked why was anyone interested in him, Denis Jack? Well Dad, lots of us were interested in you, and loved you so much. You have enriched all our lives and your memory will continue to do so. Pam, your wife for nearly 58 years, your five children, twelve grandchildren and one great grandchild will all miss you so much, but I trust, we will all in different ways, continue to reflect aspects of your amazing character.