Yesterday we cremated my father. My older daughter (Verity) and I travelled down to Cardiff by train, and rented a car at the station – it cost a little more than driving, but saved time and stress.
The service was pretty moving (the vicar looked to be about 12 years old – maybe working toward his Scout vicarring badge) and there were a lot of people there, including some family I’d not seen in 30 years, and some I’d never met.
I said a few words. These are those words:
Let’s face it – he was a stubborn old bugger.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
We know he loved his kids, and he adored his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
But that’s not what I want to talk about, either.
He wasn’t much of a traveller. The journey from the living room window to the kitchen was a major expedition, and the last time he left South Wales was when he visited me in York, to see Verity just after she was born, and that was ten years ago.
But that’s not what I’m here to say.
When he was well enough to be out and about he had lots of friends – Doreen Jones, who he loved, Idris Morgan, his best friend in the world, and even my mum, who never stopped being concerned for him, even after they divorced.
But that’s not what I want to tell you.
So, maybe I should talk about what I want to talk about, rather than what I don’t.
Perhaps surprisingly, for a funeral, I’m not here to share specific memories of things he said, or things we did together. I want to tell you something that occurred to me, too late. Something that I only truly realized after I received the phone call to say he wasn’t here, any more.
We lived apart for a long time. Not just distance, but in our experience of the world. The distance added to that, it’s true, but in recent years we found it harder and harder to really talk. He was housebound, and so his news was limited to what he saw on TV and what he could see through the living room curtains. I live hundreds of miles away, and so most of my news was about people he’d never met.
Sometimes the silence before finding the next thing to say was painful. But then one of my daughters would start telling him something about what they were learning about at school, or what they were looking forward to doing later in the day, and his eyes would light up.
I never rang him enough. But he was always, always happy when I did.
I never rang him enough. But you could hear the absolute delight in his voice when he spoke to the kids on the phone.
I never rang him enough. I was busy – there was always going to be next week
And then I got the call.
And then I realized that there wasn’t going to be a next week, that he would never again be happy to hear my voice, that the kids could never again delight him.
I want to tell my family – my brother Michael, my sister Sandra, my mother, my Aunty Pauline, my nieces and nephews and younger family members with titles too complicated to work out. I love you all. I don’t see you enough. I don’t speak with you enough. But know that I love you.
And when you leave here today, when you get home, think about someone who you haven’t spoken to enough recently, and give them a call. Let them know you love them. Don’t think: I’ll do it next week. Because I thought that, and I was wrong.
I’m going to try to pick up the phone a little more often, from now on. You should do the same. Don’t end up thinking, “I never rang him enough.”
So, thanks, Dad. I love you, and thanks for the lesson.
I’m sorry I learned it so late.