The Old Man was laid to rest this week with all four of his sons getting together to contribute to the send off. We took turns to deliver something in church, with Hugh reading a poem and Nick selecting a Bible reading. I read the poem that TOM had requested – Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden (Stop All the Clocks): a rather doom-laden piece following Paul’s sometimes ironic and amusing eulogy. The poem reflected TOM’s admission of his grief at losing his wife – our mother – eleven years previously. Feelings that I suspect he had suppressed for most of that time.
Grief is very personal. I read the book “H is for Hawk” a couple of years ago in which the author (Helen Macdonald) describes how she took to training a Goshawk as a means of working through her sorrow and depression after her father died. It is a bit of a Marmite type of book amongst those I know who have read it: some love it, others detest it. But, like Marmite, I did enjoy it but in small servings. Her descriptions of nature and the slow grind to train the hawk are often lyrically descriptive and beautifully observed. But the dark undertones of her struggle with her emotions makes for sometimes depressing reading and one almost wants to give the author a shake and tell her to get a grip.
But, like I said, grief is personal. I suspect my father never properly grieved for my mother, keeping a tight rein on his emotions. And my brothers and I have reacted in different ways, with different trigger points and feelings. Without the patriarch of the family around, there is a subconscious reappraisal of our relationships. While Paul joked in his eulogy about the genetic indicators that had been passed down to us (I apparently have green fingers and tell long boring stories about golf) there is no doubt we are all self-evaluating as we go through the painful process of selling up the house and disbanding the estate.
For me, like Helen Macdonald, I feel that nature is a soothing and apt way to balance my emotions, through walks in the country with my dogs and gardening (FINALLY, a bit about the bloody garden). As I come to terms with my father’s death, I cannot honestly say I am physically grief-stricken, but there is a hole in my life which is going to take a while to fix, as a I come to terms with the loss of my sole-surviving parent and the loss of the house that had been my home for nearly twenty-five years of my life. Creating something fresh and vibrant in my new garden is the best therapy I can think of and should be a fitting testament and proof positive of my father’s genetic bequest to me.