At the time this post is launched it will be one year to the month, day and hour that my dad died. The day after his funeral I posted this blog, and re-posting it now helps me remember how we all felt at that time. Relieved his pain was over, but grateful that he had had a wonderful life, and for what he had meant to us. A year later, his legacy is undiminished.
What I wrote one year ago . . .
On 16th January 2012 my dad died. He is pictured here meeting his cousin Mario for the first time in 40 years, during a family visit to Maniago, Italy.
He had battled Motor Neurone Disease with extraordinary courage and dignity for nearly three years. Yesterday, was his funeral and I was fortunate, with friends and family, to be able to say some words that tried to capture what he meant to us all. What follows is what I said, or tried to say. It is constructed after the event from some rather scratched notes – the words were always more in my head and my heart than on paper, but this is an attempt to put those words back together. Not grammatically perfect, but an attempt to write them as I said them . . .
As I have written them I have been listening to Faure’s Requiem – the music Dad had requested for the Mass.
What I said . . .
It is difficult to find anything positive to say about Motor Neurone Disease. It is vicious. It is vile. I am not sure anyone defeats it – not even our Dad. And to me, he was always indestructible.
But if there is a crumb of comfort it is that we, as a family, have had a long time to prepare for this day – the day we say goodbye to our Dad.
Today I want to share one small example of this . . .
It was a conversation that Dad and I were having in the relatively recent past, and Dad was talking about the many buildings he had been involved in designing – the buildings we heard about earlier from Martin and Don. As the conversation progressed it was clear that Dad was reflecting back on his life and achievements. What was it that he had done in life that would live beyond him? I realised he was talking about his legacy – although he didn’t put it in those terms.
As a teacher I was minded that I have no equivalent. There are no bricks and mortar bearing my name that will live beyond me.
But I was also reminded of something I had read many years ago, that said simply . . .
‘Teachers affect eternity . . . nobody knows where their influence ends.’
This morning, from Sid and Don, we have heard about Harold the friend and colleague . . . Harold the artist and the architect.
Of course he was all of those things, and we are very proud of that – but to us, he was . . . quite simply . . . Our Dad.
And as a dad he was a great teacher, but like all great teachers what he did was more important than what he said . . .
We have heard this morning, Dad lived his life to very high standards. He possessed fantastic personal qualities. And he was always guided by the noblest personal values. There were no double standards in Dad’s life. He didn’t expect anyone else to be a better person than he tried to be in the way he lived his life each day.
This is what Dad has passed on, and to me this is his real legacy.
So when I think about our Dad I do not think about the past with any sense of sadness – we have heard this morning from Martin, Sid and Don – it was a life well lived and God knows he suffers no more.
Rather when I think about our Dad I see the future – I see it in the faces of his grandchildren – Emma, Joanna, Amanda and Kate.
As Dad’s life has drawn to a close . . . . their lives are just beginning to open up before them.
Who knows what greatness they may achieve? In Art and Design . . . Science . . . Music . . . Philosophy – all the things they are passionate about.
And that passion isn’t an accident . . . . it is a legacy.
What I know is that whatever they do – whether they change the world . . . or simply change the world around them – they will do it differently . . . and they will do it better, because of our Dad,
Nobody knows where His influence ends . . . .
Dad . . . .
Wherever you are ‘up there’ – at peace, I am sure. To us you are still ‘down here’. We see you before us every single day . . .
Still here . . .
Still making a difference . . .
Still making the world a better place for those who live with your legacy.
Dad . . . .
We love you.
We miss you.
May God take care of you.
What I didn’t say . . .
There are far too many things to say on a day like yesterday, than can ever be said – but a few important things need saying that weren’t said . . .
To say ‘thankyou’ if you were ever a friend of our Dad. Friendship was always an important part of his life. Thankyou in particular for the tremendous support and caring shown during his illness. We know how much he appreciated that and it was never taken for granted.
To say ‘thankyou’ to my sister Hilary – she took the lead in all sorts of ways in the days after our Dad died, and Martin and I would both want to acknowledge that (to her embarrassment, no doubt).
To acknowledge our mum – there are no words that can capture her importance in countless ways. I shall not even attempt to do so. But we will always remember that Dad retained his dignity, his independence and even his humour, despite the most appalling illness, because of Our Mum. Like many women, her role as a carer was often assumed, and probably taken for granted by us all. Mum – I hope you realise that there are no parts of Dad’s achievements that are not yours also. He could only do what he did, because of you. That was as true throughout your life together, as it ever was during his illness.
And . . .
If you have read this because you knew Harold, or you have simply happened upon this in cyberspace – spare a thought for those who suffer from Motor Neurone Disease. Those with the illness are supported through the Motor Neurone Disease Association – they provide support for sufferers and carers and fund vital research. Our parents, received the most fabulous support from the local network of helpers (often volunteers). You can help by visiting their webpage – and using the ‘Donate Now’ button in the top right hand corner.
Finally . . .
We said goodbye to Dad yesterday to the sounds of Elgar’s Nimrod. Despite being fiercely proud of his Italian heritage Dad was in many ways quintessentially English, exemplified by his musical favourites. Elgar was a natural choice for inclusion in yesterday’s proceedings and was the music we played as we left him for the last time. His granddaughter Kate had suggested the piece as he had heard her play it in the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra in the Christmas concert at DeMontfort Hall. The trip down to Leicester by mum and dad in early December for the Christmas concert was always a highlight, and was the start of our Christmas. We will all miss it.
If you knew my Dad, enjoy listening to this and think of him – it was a life well lived.
If you were with us yesterday – you will recognise these.
One year later . . .
A year later the addition I have to make is this tune by Christy Moore. It was on my CD in the car as I drove across the Derbyshire Moors having received the call to go to the hospital. For the next month I don’t think I played anything else. The CD is called Folk Tales (and contains the classic track Morecambe Bay), but the tune that takes me back to that car journey across the Derbyshire Moors, more than any other, is this one . . .