Missing My Late Dad On His 80th Birthday

My Step-dad would have been 80 today. He missed it by a matter of weeks as he died suddenly at the end of November. Tonight I will raise a glass to him and probably shed a few tears.

Flying out to Cyprus (where he lived with my mum) for his funeral I was moved to write about my feelings of grief. I read it at the funeral and people told me they found it helpful coming to terms with their own grief, not only for my dad but other loved ones they have lost.

Today, in tribute to Dave who was a fantastic dad to me, I decided to share that piece of writing. I hope it helps  others grieving. Happy Birthday Dad. Love you. Tara a bit.

When I flew out from London last week it was a murky, drizzly day. The hems of my husband’s jeans were wet and cold from the puddles in our village. The tops of the trees were shrouded in a dreary damp mist and we had that misty rain which doesn’t look much but soaks you through to the bone almost as soon as you step outside.

It was miserable.

 The trip to the airport was stressful. Lorries thundered past sending blinding spray towards us and there was of course the worry that an accident caused by wet roads and poor vision might delay us, or worse.

Sitting on our plane waiting to taxi to the runway it was hard to see out of the windows which were covered in raindrops. As we taxied onto the runway I watched the plane in front of us take off and quickly disappear into the low clouds.

Given the reason for our trip and the weather it was hard to feel anything but flat, tired, sad and depressed.

The engines rumbled and off we went. I felt as I always do that anxiety and helplessness. I’m a bit of a control freak (no really!) and have to remind myself that the pilots are well trained, experienced and have not entirely selfless reasons for the take-off to go well. I remind myself that God blessed these clever folk with the ability to lift several tons of metal into the air successfully time and time again.

I say a prayer or two just in case.

It seemed an eternity powering through thick clouds. For several moments it felt like we belonged neither on the ground or to the sky. Held in limbo, restrained by seatbelts trusting in those pilots to keep us safe and help us to get where we need or want to be.

Then a burst of dazzling sunlight flooded the cabin. The clouds receded to form a soft carpet and above us and around us only blue sky as far as the eye could see.

I noticed the raindrops had vanished from my window and I had a clear view for miles. I felt my mood lift and started to feel more positive about my trip. I remembered I would get to see friends and family and share memories of Dave with other people who loved him too.

It felt to me that those few minutes from runway to sky were a great analogy for the grieving process.

We are all grieving here today. Dave might have been a man of few words at times (although let’s face it, not one to keep his opinion to himself!) but he touched each one of us with his love, humour, wisdom and generosity.

These early days without him feel like a British autumn day to me. Cold. Often lonely. Dreary. Many hours of darkness to endure as the light that was Dave seems to have been extinguished from our lives.

And when it’s autumn in Britain the balmy, sun filled days of summer seem an age away. You can hardly remember what it feels like to be warm, relaxed and happy enjoying garden parties and barbecues with friends. 

Likewise, when someone dies, it is difficult to remember a time when you were not swamped with grief. You cannot imagine that like the seasons which roll round regardless, time will bring you back to a place when you don’t feel this depth of anguish, sadness and regret. You cannot imagine life ahead without the one you love.

Like the way you trust the pilots on the plane you have to have faith that this raw grief will pass. Place yourself in God’s gentle hands and let him carry you awhile. 
As it says in the bible (1 Peter 5:7) “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”

Many people here may not believe in God. To them I say as I always do, it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in Him, because He believes in you.

You might wonder why, if there’s a God, he or she allows Cancer and other awful conditions to take good people. I don’t know the answer to that. 

I do know that situations like this bring out the very best in people. I know my mum has been truly touched by the love, help and support she has experienced. She keeps telling me how amazed she is, how unexpected it is. She hadn’t realised that so many people love and care for her too. It often takes a tragedy to bring out the very best of people and maybe we have to take that as some comfort – that terrible times can give us opportunities to share our love and God’s love through our words and actions.

Dave himself was not churchy and yet I like to think that he has been pleasantly surprised to find a sunny vine-covered heavenly Taverna where he is sitting with old friends including his close friend T who died on the same day.

They are probably sharing a beer and maybe it’s the one place where the pork chops are even bigger than here. There will be no pain, no struggle to walk or breathe and no fear. Only blue skies around him.

Faith or no faith, Dave was a good man and I believe my God will recognise that and welcome him with open arms.

It’s hard for us, left behind, missing him dreadfully but we must move onwards and upwards, just like that plane. Out of the clouds and into the sunshine. 

Dave wouldn’t want us to make a fuss. He would be embarrassed to see us all here, for him. I’m not sure he ever realised quite how much he was loved or what an impact he made on so many lives.

We will hold him close to our hearts always.

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