Saturday, 1 March 2008


Today my Dad would have been 84. He died not quite three years ago. The day he died I was in Berlin, the city where he was born.
As I think about him today, as I do almost every day, I am deeply thankful that in some ways death has given him back to me in a deep and essential sense. But I still miss him.
For more than 20 years at the end of his life my father lived with Parkinson's disease. It's not an illness you can easily hide away. An illness that gradually eats away at most of your dignity. An illness those closest to you also end up living with. My mother cared for him, fed him, washed him, dressed him, emptied his bowels, lifted him, took him out, put him to bed, loved him and shouted at him. He was the love of her life. She was devoted and exhausted and brilliant, and sometimes also enraged and at the end of her tether. It was also a desperate task to get any official support or respite for the carer. Useful too no doubt to have both your children living in France.
I was ready for my father to die. As I write that I recognise quite what a privilege it is to say something like that. So many friends have lost parents, partners and loved ones in tragically early and unexpected circumstances. I've been privileged to have both parents alive into my early middle age.
My Dad was special and grieving for him has been and continues to be special too.
Months before he died my mother had agreed to cater for someone's 50th birthday lunch and supper parties on what turned out to be the Saturday before the funeral. So my memory of that early grief is strangely intertwined with memories of my mum, brother and I standing in the kitchen at home putting together huge pavlovas, slicing cucumbers and discussing how many pints of sauce to pour over a casserole. In the midst of the whipped cream and salad dressing, we were answering the telephone and receiving people who called round to pay their condolences, preparing the funeral and weeping. It was a classic bit of organised Stranz chaos - "The dinner party must go on."
It was a healing process for me to take my father's funeral - for most of my life I had never imagined I would be able cope with his death. You can read what I said here and I'll also try and post the service when I can find it again on my computer. I came back to Geneva afterwards on a huge high, bouyed up by the adrenaline and energy of the funeral. Ten days later I was in bed with bronchitus, my body needed to grieve even if my mind was still in overdrive.
My mother dealt with grief by going out and buying a bright red MG convertible, into the boot of which she put my father's ashes. Since then we have actually scattered some of his ashes on surviving family graves in the Jewish cemetry in Weissensee, Berlin. This was I think illegal in Germany at the time - we didn't have a "Genehmigung"!
Leb Wohl Dad. I still smile as I think of us singing "Sing we a song of high revolt" to the tune of the red flag at the funeral (And certainly not to Tugwood as on the link). I'm also sad when I think of mum drinking coffee on her own in the Stranz cafe in Redditch. You always said you were sure your funeral would be a great party, it was and it's still going on. That speaks to me of resurrection.

1 Comment:

Simon Barrow said...

Lovely post. I shall drink a sloe gin to your dad! :)