Remembering my Dad this Father’s Day
Dad was a difficult man to live with, and yet we all loved him!
We were back at the old Dunolly cemetery. It was a place I’d visited time and again while growing up. Visiting the cemetry isn’t something I do with great relish. But it IS a place to have a moment to stop, remember and be thankful.
Memories of my Dad this Father’s Day
“He always knows when I’ve been,” Betty said resolutely, as she tidied up the weeds around the grave. Being a strong Catholic, my stepmother has a different way of understanding death to me. She likes to think my father is there, present at his grave.
She cleared out the plastic flowers she’d put in the grille last visit, and replaced them with some fresh, unfaded ones. When she leaves this place, she feels she is leaving him. At the same time, she believes he is on his way to Heaven, just as she is.
However, I feel quite strongly my Dad is not there at all. His spirit is somewhere else – in another dimension. A place we call Heaven. I cannot be with him now, not even at his grave. But I know one day I will see him again.
Who is right?
These are both quite different views. But who is to say which of us is right? More than likely, both of us are wrong. There are many mysteries we humans face. This one, about death, will never be fully known until we ourselves make that transition.
The old Dunolly cemetery is a place I’d visited time and again while growing up. A dry and dusty place, it’s out in the middle of parched paddocks, with old gum trees clinging to the earth in search of enough water to survive. It is a place of yellow dirt which spawned yellow gold long ago. The gold attracted men to a gold rush of epic proportions. And their descendants – my forebears – stayed on. These were my Dad’s (and my) long-gone relatives whose names are engraved on old, weathered headstones.
I’d visited this place dry and dusty place so many times when I was a kid.
And today, here I was. Back again.
I’d visited this place dry and dusty place so many times when I was a kid. And today, here I was. Back again. Now much older. More aware. And the names so familiar. They carry the weight of lives known and valued. Of loves come and gone. People who were here, and are now far distant, having sailed ahead on the seas of time.
My grandfather, my grandmother, and their parents before them lie here in this place. The remains of uncles, aunts and cousins. And a memorial to a young uncle whom I never knew – lost in action in the jungles of Singapore.
It is different now though, because beneath the ground lies the empty frame that once contained my Dad. I saw the beautiful wooden box which contains that frame one day at his burial. So I know it lies there, under the dusty yellow earth.
Remembering, this Father’s Day
While we worked, we talked about him. But we didn’t remember him in his death. We didn’t even remember his final days on earth. Instead, we remembered his life. We remembered how he loved us. Oh, how he loved us! We remembered his many achievements, even though, we now realise, he was terribly unwell for decades.
“Stuart is so ruined he will never amount to anything,” was his post-war diagnosis. Somehow my amazing mother, followed by my stepmother, gave him the love, nurture, patience and safe place for him to soundly beat that diagnosis.
Even though life with my father was incredibly difficult, he really did amount to something.
This Father’s Day I remember beyond his end, to his very full life. And I am grateful.
There’s a couple of photos of my dad, above. Can you see them?