My father John died 27 years ago today. I was 18. He had been ill with cancer for some 9 months, but we'd become a family of ostriches, refusing to accept that he was growing steadily weaker, until he became too sick to stay at home. Then my mother and I began to acknowledge reality, though we still couldn't speak about it directly. This meant that I had no timeframe set before me. I was a busy, successful 6th former, in love for the first time, about to sit my A levels,- it suited us all to pretend that we'd lots of time.
In fact, my father died on a Saturday morning, and I sat my first exam on the Monday. I was in the school library when my housemaster came in to tell me the news. Then he sent my best friend to find me and we walked round and round the school playing-field trying to make sense of it all. She too had lost her father, with hideous suddenness, just 3 years before. Looking back now, I appreciate (as I totally failed to in my self-centred teenaged world) how much it must have cost her to be there in my grief with me. It's some years since we met, but thank you Sue. You were a true friend to me, not just that day but in the weeks and months that followed.
Morning school ended and I had to face the train journey home, knowing that I would have to meet my mother and engage with a world changed horribly forever. I dreaded journey's end, but as a model student I carried on revising. It seemed the best thing to do. It was English that day...the metaphysical poets....and I found myself re-reading John Donne's A Hymne to God the Father
Somewhere in between Pevensey Bay and Cooden Beach, the last verse became true for me. God met me there in that rather grubby railway carriage and hugged me and held me, and the knowledge of that love has stayed with me through everything that has happened to me, ever since.
I have a sinne of feare, that when I have spunne
My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;
But sweare by thy selfe, that at my death thy sonne
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;
And, having done that, Thou hast done,
I feare no more.