Monday, 5 November 2012

Still Gone: a darkness to see by

laying a golf ball at Dad's tree
2 years ago today was my Dad's funeral. Around that time I wrote down some reflections. As I read them back recently it reminded me that often the darkest moments in our lives can provide us with what we need to see life that little bit more clearly. I felt as though a part of me was missing, like something inside had been chopped out. Below are some of the things I wrote around that time. I hope it doesn't seem too self-indulgent to put on as a blog, I only know that a change in perspective is often just what we need to help keep our priorities aligned and in order.

GoneOne word, four letters and a whole world of meaning and implications. More than ever before I feel as though my life is in perspective. 

To my dad I now live in the future, a time that his eyes didn’t get to see. He doesn’t know this time and this date, these events are something he’ll never be able to recall. It’s the little things that seem to carry the greatest sadness like the grass of the park covered with autumn leaves, the cold fresh sea air and the beautifully calm channel. The little joys and pleasures of everyday life are reinforced by his absence, I am enjoying them for two people now.  The latest films being released at the cinema he’ll never hear of or go to see, the next book by Conn Iggulden he’ll never read and I’ll never be able to recommend another tv show for him to watch. I am an endnote to his life.

I can close his story off with some reflections of my own but there are no new events to be recorded and written down, nothing new to be said about him that has yet to happen. If my dad’s life were a film then we’d all be expecting the credits anytime now. My life feels as though it is out of focus, it has faded out of view. In the story of my dad’s life my life was of interest and relevance only as it related to him and since he's gone my life has little significance. What I learn is that I was only a co-star not the protagonist.

What does it matter what I do now, who I am or what I achieve?

What does it matter since what I do makes no impact on him at all, he’s not here to report to. I can’t tell him what I’ve done, what I’ve been thinking about and what new discoveries I’ve made, I’ll never know the joy that came from seeing him impressed (or amused) by my developments. My life as it relates to him is an appendix stored away at the back of his book, not part of the main story but there for someone’s musing to satisfy someone's curiosity. In twenty years time those who knew my dad will say to themselves ‘I wonder what Steve’s son is doing.’ That is who I am ‘Steve’s son’ only Steve isn’t here anymore so I am nobody’s son at all. I cannot say ‘my dad does this, or lives there or thinks this.’ I can no longer phone my dad or ask him for advice, my life as it relates to him is over. Dad is gone fini; roll credits.

I am my mother’s son and a living reminder of her love for my dad. For her I am a constant reminder of the good life she enjoyed with dad, the love they shared and the happy memories they created. I am living evidence that my dad existed even though he cannot be seen. I have a responsibility to my mother’s memory of dad to live a dad-honouring life to remind my mum regularly of how wonderful her husband, my father, was. My life has meaning in this, I have a duty to care for her and support her which is a duty I owe not to her but to my dad, to the work he has done in me the time and energy and effort and money that was spent on creating me like I am.

I am endnote and an afterthought in my dad’s story but since I am also a father I feel I'm of use to the world. As my son looks to me he cares nothing for my dad and his passing. For Riley, my dad’s life has made very little impact on him; or so he thinks. He hasn’t learnt anything from my dad, he hasn’t been for walks or kicked a football or been on holiday with my dad. My dad’s life has been the introduction to Riley’s. As far as Riley is concerned all that is past is indeed preface for him and his life. He relates to me as the one I once looked to my dad to be, the teacher and orchestrator of his life, his shepherd and pastor. My life is far from insignificant where he is concerned. The past is gone and means nothing to him what matters is the future and what it holds and how it’ll shape him. He needs me to look forward and to prepare for his life to make an impact on the world. 

I am Amy’s husband. A title that fills me with joy and a role I relish. I am still the man she chose to be with, to build a home with, to serve God with. My vows to her and my commitment to her will continue on well beyond today and the loss of my dad. She looks to me to lead her, to encourage her and to love her above everything and everyone else in my life. This is my life’s aim. I am at the beginning of my journey with her, we are setting off still and with the arrival of Riley our lives have gathered fresh momentum. We are starting out where my dad was some thirty years ago. I owe it to him to live my version of the life he lived

My life has meaning as it seeks to fulfil what he created me for, the reason he raised me and loved me and led me as he did. He poured himself into me in order to fulfil his own joy yes but also to create my joy. He aimed me like an arrow from a quiver into life as he saw it. I may be an appendix in my dad’s life story but I am also the co-star in Amy’s, someone she looks to to help her fulfil her hopes and dreams and life ambitions. When Amy is old and grey and when she looks back on her life, her assessment of her life will in part be down to how well I have been her husband and succeeded in being what she hoped I would be for her.

I am a son, a father, a husband but I am also my own man. I am not only a player in someone else’s life but I am a life of my own. I live and think and breathe and I must make sense of the world for myself. I am crushed by feelings of how temporary life is, I am aware that my life is but a breath, a feint mist that will be gone just as soon as it gets going. What shall I be? I feel all at once as though my life is over and yet is just beginning. 

I am the result of my dad’s upbringing, my mum’s love and affection, and Amy’s devotion. I am not an island, independent and unmoved by those around me. I am not without responsibility and i am not without direction. One day I will have to give an account of my life not to dad, nor to my mum. Riley won’t call me to account and neither will Amy. One day I will die and I will discover what lies beyond the grave. I will learn whether or not I have a soul and whether or not I am in fact an eternal creature. I will come before the great judgement throne of God and I will have to give an answer for my life...

I will throw myself upon Jesus. 

I will be ushered into God’s presence into the company of the being who gives life and breath to every man. We often live our lives with so little direction beyond reacting to the people and moments that fill their lives. Who people need us to be, and tell us we are is often what we become. We are the product of the time, the events and the experiences we live through. One of the largest influences and sources of instruction, nurture and care in my life has died and I am at sea no longer trying to steer my vessel but waiting to see which way the waves move me. At some point soon I have a duty not only to those around me but to God who made me to steer in the direction my life is designed to go.
As a result i must get my definition for life and my bearings not from the people I interact with but rather from the God who created me. I will always be the appendix in his story, a tree in a story about a forest.

Ecclesiastes  7:2
"It is better to go to the house of mourning
  than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart."

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