Friday, 9 September 2011

A Tribute to Dad

.... and possibly an exploration of how grief is an odd thing.

I had every intention of reporting on Dad's funeral that took place on Friday 5th August, as both my brother Paul and I gave tribute speeches for him, but I found that I couldn't! Initially, my excuse was that I wanted to get express permission from Paul to put his words here but, even after he said it was OK, I still couldn't bring myself to do it. Why? I didn't immediately know!

Mind you, I also haven't felt like making any blog entries of any sort or wanted to look at any of the many blogs I list here as my favourites; I just haven't felt like it! I think I might have gone onto one or two after seeing posts on Facebook, and made one or two comments but my usual curiosity to see what people are up to has just evaporated.

At which point, I'm afraid that this post might end up sounding a little self-indulgent ...... but who cares! No one really reads my rubbish so I guess my words are between me, my Dad and God! I have realised that I have been in a limbo land where it hasn't sunk in that Dad has gone and, indeed, apart from when Dad actually died, I haven't really been able to cry, not even at the funeral. I have had flash-backs of the week when he was ill .... expressions on his face ....... the things we tried to do to support him .... and somehow it feels like it either didn't happen or the reality of specific things that happened have almost vividly jumped into my consciousness and slapped me in the face, but then still seemed unreal in an odd way.

I also said to Mum that I would take care of filling in all the probate forms for Dad. I've done this once before, when my Aunt Marion died in 2001, and despite what solicitors might want to tell you, it's a quite straightforward process. However, I have kept putting it off! However, at the beginning of this week, I felt that I couldn't put it off any more and I'd just best do it! As I thought, it was quite straightforward and on Tuesday afternoon, I actually took all the forms and went up to the Probate Court on Chancery Lane to hand deliver the documents; I didn't dare to trust even Recorded delivery as the consequences of Dad's will being lost in the post are just too awlful to contemplate! But coming back on the train, it dawned on my why I had been putting if off. Sorting out probate is one more process of almost 'clearing' Dad away. I have been conscious of how little of Dad remains to let anyone know that he ever existed ..... and yes, I know, someone (even me!) will say that he 'exists' whilst we remember him and we (I guess I mean Paul and I) are here because of him and have been shaped by his existence, so he is still here. Still, I have been having some very deep thoughts about what existence is all about and what in life really matters. But sorting out probate has been one more reality check that he has gone. I felt so upset on Tuesday night that I can't begin to describe how upset I felt.

A couple of weeks after Dad's funeral, someone asked me whether things were back to normal! I was taken aback by this! Do people actually think you should be 'back to normal' almost as soon as the funeral has happened? At that time, I hadn't even really processed that it had happened, and here I was last Tuesday as upset as I was on the day he died, with the six weeks between a surreal non-time.

So ..... perhaps I am getting a little closer to realising that Dad really has gone and that the funeral did happen and that I should now publish our tributes.

On the morning of Dad's funeral, I went over to Tesco to get fresh bread. I saw Doug over there and I said how Paul and I wanted to say tributes for Dad; that I always thought that people possibly thought of my Dad as being the quiet, unnoticed one but that I wanted to say what he really meant to us. Even saying this to Doug, I could feel my lip starting to tremble and I wondered whether I'd be able to do it!

When we were travelling to Enfield Cremetorium, I started to 'will' myself not to cry as I was pretty sure that if I cried, I wouldn't be able to say anything. The long approach avenue when you get onto the Cremetorium grounds has always been the point where I can easily start to cry but somehow I managed not to.

Once there, we realised we were early and the chief undertaker, who was actually very good and very nice, asked whether we wanted to wait outside or maybe go into the waiting room? However, make a decision!! Right at that point in time, decisions were out!! We were saved by the arrival of my vicar, Stuart, who suggested we go in and listen to the introduction music, perhaps a couple of times. Whilst the music was playing, in what seemed to be a split second of time, I heard a noise which alarmed me but I also couldn't think what it was. In that same split second, I realised that it was my brother sobbing. It was a sound that I've never heard before and never want to hear again but his anguish reached into the core of my being and I felt like someone had grabbed hold of my insides and sharply twisted them. Still trying for all I was worth not to cry myself, I stretched my hand out to try to comfort him. For a moment, I was Big Sister again :)  I always did hate to see Paul upset. I suddenly didn't want him to start getting worried about whether he would be able to say his tribute.

Father Stuart had recommended that we say our tributes as the very first thing that happened in the service. So, after his opening welcome and prayer I said the following:

Before we pay tribute to Dad, on behalf of all the family, I want to thank you all for coming and for the support you have shown. We are sad that Dad’s brother and sister, Jim and Nell, and Jim’s wife Olive can’t be with us today. However, all three are in poor health and the long journey would have been too much for them. We wish them well and know they are with us in spirit.

My brother then read out the following tribute. Given that he had been so choked up just a short while before, I am amazed that he managed to say it. He is amazing :)

My dad was a shy, retiring man and would be most embarassed at the attention he is getting today.
He was hard-working and very much a family man, preferring to stay at home rather than socialising.
He was always there whenever we needed him.
I can remember that he used make my models for me as a young child and this encouraged me then to make my own.
As a young teenager, rebuilding my push-bike was difficult because parts were jammed together. I was in big trouble. I could not see a way out.

So, dad took them to work and managed to dissemble the parts and to my surprise i woke up the next morning and found these parts separated out next to my bed side. It must have been his tea- break, he then went back to work.

In later years any project that i was involved in, my dad always was keen to help.

I can especially remember this trait still showing through his Alzeimer's during a difficult time when I had to remove my car engine to perform big repairs to it. Every day he would join me because he just wanted to support and help me. He could sense that i was in trouble.

To the rest of the world he was just an ordinary man. But to me he was my dad who i loved and will miss forever.
He is now at home where he always wanted to be.

I then said the following:

When someone you love gets Alzheimer’s, it is very easy to get totally wrapped up in coping with the symptoms of the disease so that you lose sight of the real person. However, Dad was so much more than the Alzheimer’s and we tried to make allowances for the behavioural problems it caused because we knew this wasn’t really him but the disease.

When Dad’s needs were such that he had to be cared for in Silver Birches, our biggest fear was that the staff would only see his difficult behaviour and would, quite frankly, not like him! So, two years ago, I wrote a poem to hang in his room to give them a flavour of all the things that had happened in his life and an idea of the ‘real’ Dad; my Gentlemanly Dad would have been horrified by what the disease was doing to him.

In actual fact, our fears were totally ungrounded. Many of the staff at Silver Birches, some of whom are here today, have become like extended members of the family and have treated Dad with consideration, tolerance, patience and respect. We deeply Thank You all.

Nevertheless, the poem still describes many of the things that were important in making him the person we knew and I would like to read it to you. It is entitled ‘Beyond What You See Now’.

Beyond What You See Now

Please see beyond what you see now
Consider days gone by
A cheeky little ginger lad
The apple of Mum’s eye.

Work started at just fourteen years,
Learned the tool-maker’s trade
But Spurs and football were first loves
For amateur teams he played.

By twenty-six, a handsome man
Blue eyed and flame-red hair.
A so smart groom, he weds my Mum
In love, a handsome pair.

When babies come, see a proud Dad
Cradle his infants small,
See strong hands oh so gentle now
He loved Elaine and Paul.

Through all the years a breadwinner
In work he takes great pride
With hardly ever a day off sick
For him, no easy ride.

A quiet, private man at heart,
His thoughts kept to his chest.
Yet if you said you needed help,
He’d be there, give his best.

He always had to be on time,
Annoyed if slightly late.
But good manners meant everything,
Politeness a strong trait.

A fit man, playing football ‘til
His forties nearly pass.
He loved to decorate his home,
D.I.Y. of top class.

His only grandson makes him proud,
Over the park they go.
To play with football or the swings,
Come back faces aglow.

He’d walk for miles though 70 plus,
Despite disease progressing.
Could wear out people half his age.
The need to ‘Go Home’ pressing.
Alzheimer’s takes no prisoners,
To disease he must bow.
Yet the Old Dad lives in our hearts,
Beyond what you see now.

By Elaine Maul for her Dad, Ron Lawrence

The service today will end with ‘Going Home’ sung by the Fron Male Voice Choir. This is often played at funerals but the anxiety and insecurity caused by the Alzheimer’s meant that Dad was always wanting to Go Home even if he was at home. He was searching for the security that Home represents. Well, he has now Gone Home at last and he is at peace. However, he always gave us the security of knowing that he was there At Home for us whenever we needed him. We give Thanks to God that he was our Dad and for everything we shared and all he did for us. We all love you Dad and will miss you. 
I have read the poem out loud to my Mum before, when I first wrote it two and a half years ago, and we both had a cry at the time. There are key points in it that always bring a lump in my throat and, again, I willed myself not to cry. This effort worked maybe a little too well as I found that, once sitting down, the service continued and I couldn't cry at all! Apart from a little when Going Home played at the end.
On the way home, my brother was worried that people thought he had been laughing at the beginning of the service! I assured him that was the last thing they thought! However, I did say we made a right pair; he worried that he'd cried too much and I worried because I hadn't! Grief is a funny thing .......
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