Do you ever have those moments in your life that make you feel old? You know that moment where someone from a younger generation is ignorant of something you took for granted, like not knowing what dial up Internet is, or who when you talk fondly of the glory days of sport and mention some obscure 90s footballer and they have no idea who they are.
The moment that made me take stock and have that wow moment…. Realising its been 26 years since my dad died and that I’m not far off the age he was when he died. Its funny how memory works. There are things I can remember vividly about dad, often its things you wish you could block out, I’d love for example not to remember so vividly the day he died or the fact that no matter how hard I try I’ll never forget that moment at 11 years old of walking into the funeral directors and seeing dad in a coffin prepared for his funeral. I can remember the pain, there has never been anything quite like it. There are moments I wish I could remember better, I have to try very hard to remember his laugh for example, or what he sounded like. I wish I had listened when he bollocked me as a kid and could remember any of those lectures he gave me. They were dull at the time but now I’d give anything to hear one of his bits of wisdom.
I often wonder what he’d think of me. For example I voted remain. Dad? Well Dad would have voted leave but I think he’d have been ok with that. He was his own man, he didn’t suffer fools and I got my sarcasm and wit from him. My stubborn streak? Dad. My shyness? Dad. He always pushed me to want better, to do better than he did. Yes that’s most parents, but like all of you, my dad was the best dad.
You see some of my drive in life, some of what defines me as a person, the reason I want to do well and continue to push.. I want his approval. I want that moment where he’d be sat with a pint and look at me and say. “I’m proud of you.” and its never going to come.
The thing with losing someone to suicide is that its so sudden. They’re there one minute, the next there is a gaping hole in your life, where they used to be and you strive to fill it and doing that..well, simply put it can fuck you up.
I learnt a long time ago, all of the above, that striving to fill a void is an exercise in futility. It won’t go away. Its part of me now. Dad left a line in his suicide note. It wasn’t a big thing to him as he wrote it, but it said (I was about to start secondary school) (this is paraphrased as I’ve not read the note in years, nor do I have any desire to) “Make me proud at your new school.” That first bit makes me proud, it was stuck in my head. It gnawed at me for years and I put so much pressure on myself, to achieve something that I couldn’t do.
Thanks to Winston’s Wish I had help and support to deal with that, to learn how to deal with grief. They don’t make things magically better, but give you tools to cope with grief and to accept there is a void in your life, where a loved one, once was. But ultimately you have to move forward with life.
For me, even after counselling, I spent a long time trying to live my life to please my dad. I ate to cope and I look back now and realise I wasn’t happy. Then something changed, I started doing stuff for myself, I started playing rugby, I studied for my masters, I got in shape, I met Em as a result, and things started to fall together. You know what? By being my own man, I think I might finally have started doing what I set out to do.
So when I do these challenges I do it for a number of reasons I guess:
- To give back to a charity that let me live a normal life
- For dad
- For me
I guess the biggest message I’ve learnt from losing Dad (and forgive me as this is a bit cheesy) Life is precious, and I didn’t realise that straight away and I don’t remember it all the time. I can be miserable and rude and ignorant to others but ultimately I try to remember people can be taken away just like that, so appreciate them while you have them. If there is something you want to do and you can do it; go and bloody do it. If you fail, so what? At least you tried. (n.b sometimes you might need to listen to people though- my first idea back when I first wanted to give back to Winston’s wish was cycle around Cambodia and Vietnam… Em helpfully pointed out that this might be an ambitious first step).. so I guess lesson 2 is have an amazing person to support you and keep you on level ground.
So it helps me cope, its an outlet and if as a side effect it helps to raise money so more people can have support to cope, then.. well I’m going to keep asking for you all to support and sponsor me.