(Originally posted 1st October 2019)
Good evening lovelies,
As I’m sure some of you are aware, I am currently on vacation to scatter my late father’s ashes. While we are here, the family knew that in an odd way, Cornwall would probably allow us to reconnect, to heal, and to redefine ourselves after our loss. We haven’t changed that much, but we are a family of four now, not a family of five. Though my Dad has gone, somehow, my Matt now has an even bigger slice. Sort of an added share of responsibilities.
On Sunday, we all visited Newquay, where we will be scattering Dad’s ashes as he requested. As the sunset across the bay, I came to realise that this is my new life now, this is it. Dad is gone, and he’s left my brother and I as his legacy.
“How do you cope, with losing your Mum?” I urged Matt. He was taken aback.
We sat in the beer garden, watching the lighthouse illuminate the sea. Up above, Mars flickered in the night sky.
“I just try to do her proud” he said. It seemed simple enough.
Yesterday, we visited Perranporth, another beach just south of Newquay. As we walked onto the sand, I knew that I’d walked too far. In an odd way, my point of reflection was to be sat on one of the benches along the promenade, before we even got onto the sand. We walked back up and visited some of the shops for some hot Cornish pasties, then I asked to sit on one of the benches on the promenade. Matt sat next to me in a beautiful reflective silence. We both knew it, even though he wasn’t there in person, Dad was with us in spirit.
“You know, it’s strange” I started, “I always thought acceptance would be some sense of elation, but it’s not.”
I watched the pair of jackdaws dance at our feet, hoping for a little dropped crumb of pasty. Greedy little birds, but not at all confident, not like the gulls.
Today, we visited Newquay harbour again to find the suited vessel for scattering my father’s ashes at sea. The group disbanded and Matt and I were left alone while my mother and brother were off talking and planning the occasion. I let them take take over that task because they knew far more about fishing vessels than me. For me, what mattered was that my father could be finally laid to rest just as he requested. It would hurt to say goodbye, but in my heart, I knew that I was ready.
I leaned on the railings and looked out across the still sea. Considering the choppy spring tide we’d seen only days before, the sea was eerily calm.
“All I can do now is like you said, do him proud. I’m not a little girl anymore, I need to be the woman that I’ve become” I told Matt. He smiled at me. He was proud of me, and he knew that my Dad would be, too.
My father had done his job. He’d raised me, he’d supported me and he’d made me what I needed to be. He taught me a lot about psychology and how to deal with people. He’d equipped me with my wit and taught me to assemble furniture, and now I was ready to let go. Although I loved him and I missed him, the truth was, I didn’t need him to protect me and teach me anymore,
I had grown up.
I was ready.
Acceptance doesn’t mean that I don’t miss him, nor does it mean that I’m now happy and everything is fine. I can still miss him or miss something he did dearly, it just means that I accept that he’s gone and that thing won’t happen any more. Acceptance also doesn’t mean that I feel purposeful and ready again, because I don’t. There is a sense of loss, a sense of confusion, a sense of seeking purpose again.
Talking about the lost loved one can really help, and so can talking to people who have been in a similar position to where you are. Matt lost his mother when he was four, so by now, he’s something of a seasoned expert at coping with the loss of a parent. Although it still troubles him, he could at least teach me what he knew, and I was more than ready to listen.
For me, going forward will mean maintaining those little traditions that I had with my Dad. Around Christmastime, I plan to make a wreath and hang it on my garden shed. To anyone, that probably sounds crazy, but for me, I feel my Dad’s presence in the shed and he used to make a Christmas wreath every year without fail. Sitting on Perranporth seafront with a Cornish pasty was also another thing we used to do. It’s those little things that allow him to still be with me.
One of the easiest coping strategies for now has come in allowing Matt to care for me. Co-dependent it may be, but it helps to patch over the wounds. I know that he is happy, and I know that for me, it is far, far less painful than being thrown out into the big wide world on my own. A husband should guide, protect and lead his wife, and so I am allowing him to fulfill that role.
My Dad will always be with me, but he is with me in spirit, inside my heart. Just because he isn’t here in person to hold my hand, doesn’t mean that he is gone entirely.