There are good memories and there are bad memories, regardless of their enjoyment grading they are memories and some linger to bring you joy and happiness whilst others serve to remind you of sad times.
I remember ridiculously unimportant things that would be useful in the most trivial of quizzes, eventful times like when my salopettes got hooked on the chair lift and I got off still attached with my legs paddling air, heart stopping moments when my girls were born and the subsequent funny things they said and did, the good times with friends, the sorrow at my family and friends dying, a smell of something, but there’s the one memory that has over arched my life for 41 years. Bear with me, it’s not a pity me post, far from it.
41 years ago today at the age of 41 my dad died. He has now been dead for as long as he had been alive and instead of the churning raw emotion I felt since I was 9 I feel calm, accepting and brave. It doesn’t mean I have stopped mourning him or grieving, it means that after a lifetime of sorrow I have learnt to let the light shine on my memories and instead of being angry I only had 9 years with him I celebrate I did have 9 years with him.
For years I was angry, bitter and jealous. It just wasn't fair. Why did my dad have to die? Why me?
I carried my grief around with me and just added to it when people died, it was never really spoken about back in the day, we are talking late 70s when no-one discussed emotions and it was stiff upper lip all the way. If I felt sad or emotional I cried yet said it was because I had a headache, stubbed my toe or something on the telly had made me sad. It wasn't until my best friend died that everything collapsed and I crumbled - debilitated, broken.
I have written about that time rather a lot and thanks to my good friends who never pitied but rallied I started talking to Cruse Bereavement Care. The first few appointments were hell but it soon got easier until the counsellor said you are stronger now.
Fast forward a few years and my first appointment with the kinesiologist, she asked me about when my father died. I gulped thinking what the heck this had to do with my health and taking a deep breath I said in one go "I was 9, Dad was ill, upstairs in my brother's bedroom, I was told to say goodbye to Daddy as I was off to Bath for half term, the next day he had died and I didn't say goodbye. The next time I saw him was as his coffin was carried into the church. I didn't say good bye, I said bye in a see you soon kind of way and I wish I had known it was time to say goodbye forever. Over the years grief consumed me but I've had counselling and know I can't change a thing about what happened then but I have talked about it and I am ok now". She stroked my hand and as she did tears as big as anything rolled down my cheeks and she said in her soothing voice "it's ok now, let it go, you don't need to carry this sadness round with you".
A few months later I went to see a friend who practices Reiki, she has previously seen people and she said a man has walked in, I said describe him (whilst I was thinking of Tom Jones), she described a man I knew very well, then she said "your dad has always been here but he never came forward because he knew it would upset you, but now you are in a happier place he is happier".
For years I have mourned things that happened without him being there. My dad didn't see into my tens, teens or adulthood, he didn't walk me down the aisle, he never met his grandchildren, he never saw me irritated as he was when people squeezed tubes in the middle, he never saw me grow strong, confident and brave.
Make of that what you will, it gave me strength. The strength to finally say to myself it's ok you don't need to lug sadness with you, and whilst this is about my dad it's a nod to Clare too, if she had not died I would not have ripped that plaster off and talked through the pain to be where I am today.
I am lucky to have the time I had with the people I've lost.