It’s a year ago today since my father died.
I’ve not been looking forward to this day – the first anniversary of his death. In truth, I have been rather dreading it and it has been playing on my mind for some weeks now.
It only seems like yesterday since I went in to visit him one morning and found him lying dead in his hospital bed. Still warm to the touch but still gone – his suffering over. The image is burnt into my memory. I remember going to tell the nurse on duty that he had died, she didn’t know. She apologised to me – but for what? However he did not die alone – I believe his Maker was there with him. He had faith. I try.
12 months have passed since that day and I miss him.
I know that is a selfish thing to say this because in truth he suffered greatly towards the end of his days as cancer devoured his body and it was a relief for him to go. He told me that he wanted away and his wish was granted to him by a merciful God. He knew he was dying and lord knows there was precious little dignity for him in his final months but he did his best to cope. I used to leave his hospital bed after the nightly visit with a brave face on that did not last much longer than the length of corridor I walked.
Though he has gone, there is a vast hole left behind for me.
I miss his good humour and his ability to pass life’s many travails off with a smile. I think that sometimes I may come across to you, dear reader, as rather more serious and intense than I actually am. In reality I believe that I am a younger version of what he was in the sense that I find life is easier if you can smile at it, rather than frown. Yes I know I do rail and protest at some things – hence this blog! – but you know folks, my bark is much worse than my bite. What always amused me about my Dad was that the bigger the hole he would find himself in – maybe some shares he bought expecting colossal dividends would nose-dive for example, he would think about it for a while and then find a way to look on the bright side of things! He didn’t take life that seriously, though he took his duties as husband and father very seriously. Duty mattered to him and it does to me.
I miss his modesty. He was such a kind and generous man and whilst he liked money he also liked to give it to those who needed it more than him. Throughout his 78 years on this earth he was the type of amiable soul who got on with people, he was a friend to many and at his funeral last year I was touched by the tributes paid to him by young, middle-aged and old. He was a man of principle who did what he said he would do. His word was his bond. I try to be the same.
I miss his enquiries into my own life. He was always interested in what his grandchildren were doing and delighted in their success. He would be so impressed to know his grandson can now drive and that his grand-daughter has dyed her hair purple! He also liked to know about my commercial success and would have been proud of my first book. He took the view that politicians were a rum lot, and he was right.
I miss my great weekly debates with him on politics and religion. We knew how to rile each other, as father and son can do so well. But we never fell out over these things and I would usually take extreme positions on issues in order to get a scathing response from him. He rarely let me down. He was a man who enjoyed debate with others and I remember him telling me about his public questioning of Lord Eames, head of the Anglican Church in Ireland. You don’t think my dissenting character came out of the blue, do you?
Above all I just miss the fact that he is just not there anymore. Sometimes I wonder where he has gone. I struggle to understand it all. I look up at the night sky some evenings and see all those stars twinkling across the universe and ask myself where is the man who was such a central part of my life?
It’s been very hard for me to write this these words but writing is what I probably do best. I think it helps release some of the pain stored up inside me. Later today I will go and visit his grave in a little country churchyard and have some time for reflection.
John Joseph Vance – born 26th February 1929 – died 30th April 2007.
Missed by your sorrowing son .