Rather than take up any time on the day itself with posting this, I want to pre-empt the first anniversary of my father's death to say a few words. Sometimes I wish I was a poet.
It's been a year, dad, since you found your final peace, since you found that ultimate release from your pain, your discomfort and your bewilderment. Yours was a life truly lived; a life filled with experiences both hard and wonderfully joyous. It was a life in which your family played the biggest part; together with our mum raising five children in times of extreme financial hardship early in your adult life - but making it work.
Eventually you watched your grandchildren arrive, one by one through the years, to be bounced on your knee, to be sung at, to have funny faces pulled at them, to have the wonder of their surroundings so emphatically pointed out. It was in those moments that as an adult, I was able to fix in my mind the clearest memories of you.
My childhood memories are so very distant by comparison, and of course all from a child's perspective and limited understanding. However, watching you with my elder sibling's children (and eventually my own), I was able to see beneath the shyness, to see past the gentle reserve, to discover the depth of your love for your family. It never wavered, and you were never more happy or animated than when you had a child with you, whether it be happily (if a little painfully) getting down onto the floor to play with them or taking them out for a walk. In those images, for me, is reflected your love for your own children. Forgive me if from time to time I bask in the idea of being one of those children you so enjoyed spending time with.
You also saw great-grandchildren come into the family, and the same patterns were repeated; your unbridled joy and empathy for children coming to the surface again and again, despite your own illness. In those times, dad, I think I saw the real you, the person my childhood distractions prevented me from noticing and indeed, appreciating. I am so sad that the things you enjoyed so much were taken away from you so long before the end, but perhaps having the pain of parting removed from your awareness was the best way for you. You would have hated those goodbyes more than anything.
I've missed you for several years now, dad; your illness took you away from us all such a long time before your body became too tired to hold on any longer. I haven't had you around to turn to, even across the thousands of miles that separated my home from yours, for a number of years, yet now that you are truly gone; now that I shall never again be in a room with you, speak to you, or hold your hand in mine, I miss you even more. I look into a mirror and I see whose son I clearly am; I carry your genes very obviously in my own face - so much so that I could swear that sometimes it is you that I see in that mirror. I hope I'm as similar under the skin, but it's not for me to say.
This anniversary has me thinking of you even more, dad, looking at your photograph smiling back at me, and remembering who I know you really were. I hope that when my time eventually comes, I will leave behind a legacy of love as rich as that which you have left to all of us who remain. You are missed by a great many people, missed as a strong yet gentle man who always did the right thing for the right reasons, a man who began adulthood with so little but ended with so very, very much. A man to look up to, a man to aspire to be like. I can but try.
You would be embarrassed to hear such things, but you would know, deep down, that it is all true. You led a great life, did great things and you were a great man. Thank you for being the person you were.
Grumpy middle aged git moaning about stuff and occasionally trying to be funny.