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Coping with the loss of a parent: A tribute to my dad


holding hands, father and daughter, grieving, loss of a parent, watercolour picture of holding hands
Do you remember the last time you held someone's hand?

The last time

I held your hand 

I knew 

That even though your body was here

Still breathed

That an essential part of you was preparing to leave 

The spark of life that made you who you were 

Bright and bold and larger than life


Someone said to me once “he’s not your real dad though is he?”

And whilst true that we shared no DNA, what is a real dad

If not the man who hugs you like he’s hugging life and love right back into you?

Who can’t wait to tell you his jokes, even though he laughs so hard he can’t get to the punchline?

Who supported you and cheered you on and shared your work because he had a father’s pride in everything you did?

Who loved to share silly memes with you, and insisted on playing back bits of funny shows, or things that made him happy, or sad, because he wanted to share them with you?

Who delighted in your successes and loved and supported you through your failures and pain?


I remember the last time I held your hand. I was playing you New Orleans street jazz music as you laid in bed. Even though you couldn’t show it, I know you could hear it. Your hand was warm, and so reassuring. I knew it was ok for us to let you go even though it hurt so.  


Because I am gifted with a sight beyond the ordinary, I watched as you leapt up and danced to the jazz I played you, laughing your way across the veil, doing that silly half crouched dad dance that you always did, with the “da da, ha ha, ta ta” noises in that husky voice that mimicked the great jazz greats, and your jazz hands shaking like you were at Mardi Gras. The joy in your face, the pure exuberance of that moment - I couldn’t be sad even as the vital essence of what made you, you, left for your next great adventure. 


You loved the writer Lafcadio Hearn , and he once wrote “No man can possibly know what life means, what the world means, until he has a child and loves it. And then the whole universe changes and nothing will ever again seem exactly as it seemed before.”


The opposite is also true - being loved by you, and loving you, transformed my life for the better. And that’s a gift that I will always treasure. Coping with the loss of a parent is hard, but I do my best to remember that my experiences with you are a gift to be cherished.


I love you dad. Speak soon. 



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