On the 30th November, just days after his 91st birthday my beautiful father left, as he called it, ‘the land of the living’ to continue his journey with all his mates, ancestors, and family in another land.
I take great solace in the fact that I know he is in great company.
You are never really prepared to say goodbye even when you know it’s coming.
On the 21st of September 2020, I was one of the very lucky people who boarded a plane out of Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris heading for Australia to spend time with my dying father and my family. I called him from the empty airport lounge in case something happened to both of us in between and I howled down the phone that ‘he did a great job as a father and I loved him dearly.’ He reassured me that nothing would happen to him and I boarded the plane a blubbering mess, I prayed he would wait for me. Dad waited, he always did.
My Dad, as my brother said in his eulogy, ‘was the kind of man that there isn’t enough said about.’ Dad saw it an honour to devote his life to his family from the day he married my mother and he was unwavering in his mission with my mum to give us a safe, secure, simple, and joyous life.
Dad was a quiet man but he knew who he was, stood by his values, and took great pride in passing them onto us. He found pleasure in the simple things, he tended his garden every day of his life no matter where we lived. Each time we would pull up sticks and move again to a new town, the first thing Dad would do was plant his new garden where we would always find sweet peas, petunias, pansies, and an array of veggies.
Mum and Dad were an undividable team no matter how hard we tried. It was this love and care that I had the joy of witnessing in the last months of Dad’s life. There was beauty in dying, in the love that my mother showed my father in the tiniest of daily rituals to ensure he was comfortable, the deepest loyalty in the promises to Dad that he would end his last days at home with his beloved garden just a glance out the window.
In preparing to say goodbye, everything becomes precious, the sweet smell and taste of mangoes that Dad only wanted to eat for breakfast, the pristine white of the first magnolias that bloomed from the tree he planted in front of their window, shared discussions with my sisters and brothers about what to do next. The hunt for fresh oysters when that’s all he wanted to eat or to track down a culinary throwback such as ‘curried prawns and rice’ when the rare request was made.
For me, everything was an honour, to do the smallest of tasks, to place a knitted blanket over him to keep him warm as he dozed off to sleep, like he did for me at the other end of my life. The smallest of tokens for the love and care my sisters, brother, and myself have been shown throughout our lives.
There is so much talk about leaving a legacy, some families leave legacies of wealth and share portfolios. My father (and mother) left another kind of legacy, they worked every week of our lives to make our childhood an adventure, rich with barbecues late into the night on the beach when others may have packed it in for the day, picnics with our extended family that included card tables, flasks, eskies, fishing rods, cricket sets, and our beloved family dog. Road trips around Australia in our Valiant with wide eyes and big hearts singing ‘que sera, sera’. What will be, will be.
It’s a legacy of family and beauty, of appreciation for a perfect gardenia and the rush of pleasure its heavenly scent elicits, for the simple joy of being outdoors laughing our hearts out and being part of this big, beautiful world we live in. A legacy of family I see in the faces of my nieces and nephews, my brothers and sisters. Going through our photos cemented another legacy, a life well-lived. Dad maxed out his life in his own gentle way and created so much love.
What remains? Love. Dad’s on another ‘plane’ now, but the love remains, so much love. I count myself as one of the luckiest gals on the planet to have inherited a gentle legacy that feels large and wide, perfumed with the simple joy of a garden, an incredible family with so much gumption and echoes of laughter floating away on a windy beach. Over the past months, I’ve spent so much time with my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends and family friends and it’s this fabulous tribe created by Dad and Mum that brings comfort and security.
So on the Eve of the close of 2020, a year like no other, a year that gifted us the opportunity to tune into what is important to us, I thank you for being a valued part of my community and wish you loved times with your family and friends. 2020 has been kind to me, many wishes came true, so please don’t be sad for me, I’m filled with gratitude and thanks for all that I was able to experience and share.
2020 has been a chance for all of us to ask ourselves the deeper questions about what’s really important to us and I hope that 2021 is the year we get to realise some of those dreams.
Que, sera, sera (what will be, will be)