It is very difficult to write a speech for someone you don’t believe, despite the evidence, has truly gone from your life. In planning this funeral a recurrent conversation was that dad would have wanted to attend the party, to meet with his friends and family, to have one last drink with people he was so happy to have built his life with. And his absence here today is very present.
We are all gathered here together because we knew and loved Dad, whether he came into our lives or whether he was always present, and reciting dates and locations doesn’t do justice to his memory, or the importance of what he meant to us.
For his children dad was, in our younger years, somewhat unique. There are few parents who would happily tag along to Glastonbury Festival, or Donnington Monsters of Rock, or a Gay Pride march without batting an eyelid. Dad was an active participant as we explored the world and a welcome refuge when needed. Without being controlling or careless he gave us the confidence and the tools to explore the world freely. As we grew older I think it is safe to say that our relationship with dad matured to become one of loving friendship, built by years of support. Dad was a fantastic role model, a supportive friend and an incredible father.
Of course I can’t speak about Dad without mentioning his constant companion of the last 50 years and the love of his life, mum. I can’t think of two people who were so well aligned, who fought together for the same goals, and their every success stands as a testament to their commitment to each other. Whatever they faced they faced together, and they did amazingly.
Dad was always a great chess player and enjoyed teaching people how to play. He was also very good at teaching other people how to lose, what I think he would describe as a side effect of his years of experience. He had a lifelong passion for classical music after being inducted into the mysteries by his later to be brother-in-law Richard, who also awakened a passion for cinema that lasted the rest of his life.
He loved travel and had a great sense of adventure, and is known for his family trips across Europe, Egypt and the USA, as well as his love of Canada where Jake and Jess made their home –with the additional benefit that they are close to the skiing capital of the world. He often boasted about having completed the Men’s Winter Olympics Black run in Whistler, exceeding the feats of Eddie the Eagle, though there are some details that my sister-in-law Jess has since revealed since that may put this story in a different light. Throughout his years dad was very active and loved skiing, enjoyed hill walking and drinking gin and tonic recovering from these adventures. I have fond memories of climbing to the summit of Lochnegar via the Black Spout, a narrow chimney no one in their right mind would attempt with children in tow.
Dad will always be remembered for his sense of humour, willing to poke fun at himself (and anyone else who happened to be in the room). He was often self-deprecating, or self-aggrandizing for comic effect, but never boastful or mean spirited. He had a humility that made him approachable, and he was always happy to have you on his team.
Dad’s breadth of interests was astounding, seeming to expand every year, verified by the size of his library. He was a voracious reader, but was also an excellent writer as well: he began writing regular letters to Tim and Helen when they lived in Uganda, shared with the family, that were in turns hilarious and heart-warming. In his last years he began an English writing degree with the Open University and received great praise for his work. He was gifted in capturing his personality and graceful storytelling charm in even short correspondence.
Dad was quick witted and loved puzzles – as you may know if you were ever trapped in one of his epic treasure hunts, full of cryptic clues and vague hints that managed to entertain and infuriate participants in equal measure. It also added greatly to my vocabulary with my Uncle Mike driving at break neck speed around Suffolk, swiftly losing patience looking for god knows what hidden in plain sight.
Dad was many different things to many different people, but he was invariably kind, loving, and supportive. His greatest love was family, a term that encompassed anyone related by blood or marriage, or pretty much anyone who happened to be in the vicinity at the time. His open heart made him easy to connect with, and form a bond that he would nurture even after years apart. Each of us here have our own memories of dad, and I look forward to us sharing them throughout today. I will always miss his friendship and his humour, his guidance and his wisdom.
Dad received his terminal diagnosis at the beginning of this year, and we were fortunate enough to have the time to come together as a family and share time together. It was a precious experience, allowing us to share our love and appreciation for someone who has both shaped our lives and given us unfailing support for so long. He found the meetings he was lucky enough to have with some of his closest and dearest friends bittersweet, with every goodbye leaving one less ‘last’ on his path, and there were regretfully some he did not have the opportunity to meet one more time. Please know there would never be enough time for dad to have spent the time he wanted with everyone in his life, and to do everything he still wanted to do.
I am happy to say he had a good death, without fear or pain, surrounded by love. There was joy and humour in his last days, being looked after and cared for by those he has always looked after and cared for. There was also a daily Gin and Tonic.
He is loved. And he is missed.
“There Are Delicacies”
There are delicacies in you
like the hearts of watches
there are wheels that turn
on the tips of rubies
& tiny intricate locks
I need your help
to contrive keys
there is so little time
even for the finest