I got a shock when I was searching through some boxes and came across a coat belonging to my late father.
I have no idea why I kept it. I swiftly gave all my father’s clothes to charity after he died, because I found myself repeatedly putting on his favourite cardigan in the days immediately following his passing. I thought this an unhealthy activity.
I lifted the coat and frantically wondered what to do with it. I didn’t want to see it or feel it because it was too much of a physical reminder of his missing presence.
Before I could stop myself I was hugging it to me. I could still faintly smell my father’s familiar aftershave and all the memories of him came flooding back. I could see his hands in my mind’s eye and the way he always kept his nails so beautifully manicured.
I could envisage his smiling face, the face I haven’t seen for almost two years now. The coat unleashed a tsunami of grief inside me that until now I had kept under control. I sobbed until I could sob no more.
Good Morning Britain presenter Charlotte Hawkins, wept on national television this week when she spoke about losing her father in January of this year.
No doubt she will find this approaching Sunday difficult as it will be her first Father’s Day without her father.
It will be my second. It is also just two weeks away from the second anniversary of my father’s death.
Dealing with special dates like Father’s Day and anniversaries after a loved one dies can be much more difficult than you would imagine.
I used to be of the opinion that it was just another day, but it’s not. It’s a catalyst for memories that come back to you. Memories of what you used to do on Father’s Day, I always made a fuss of dad. It’s the same with the anniversary of his death.
I will find myself looking at the clock and reliving the day it happened, how I got the news and the awful aftermath of frantic essential arrangements that had to be made immediately.
It seems like much longer than just two years that my father has been gone. The world has felt a different place without him.
They say a girl never really grows up until she loses her father, I wholeheartedly agree. Until my father’s last moment on this earth I was still his little girl.
I have never laughed so hard or smiled so much with anyone else as I did with dad. I lost that when Alzheimer’s took over his brain but I still had his physical presence. I still had a father.
Becoming an adult orphan brings with it a melancholy that seems to take residence in your soul. It’s a feeling of aloneness that no other relationship can ever really replace. When anything good happens I still have that urge to tell my father, because he was always delighted by anything that made me happy in a way I know no one else will ever be.
As I looked at my father’s coat I still felt that sense of awe about how he simply disappeared into nothingness.
Sometimes, when I’m terribly worried about something I can see scenes from my parents’ lives in my head, moments of great angst which usually seemed to come to nothing and then one day, it was all over and they disappeared into the ether.
These memories and scenes make me realise how fleeting life is. I put my father’s coat in a bag destined for the charity shop. If I didn’t, I knew I would be tempted to take it and smell his faint aroma and miss him all the more.
I know he would be horrified at the thought of me grieving for him in this way. Without reminders like the coat of him around, I still manage to laugh a lot and enjoy life and remember with fondness the times we shared, which is what he’d have wanted.
The author Anne Lamott gave this description of grief; ‘It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with a limp’.
I think that’s the perfect way to describe the eternal missing that comes with the loss of a loved one; you’re still able to enjoy life, albeit with a slight disability of the heart.
Happy Father’s Day!