Fourteen years ago today, on 6 August 1999, my father died, going gently into that good night. He had raged long enough at the passing of the light – and in his case, air, since he suffered for many years from COPD – and on that day he finally let go.
Taken ill and hospitalised two days before that, his internal battle was fired by the desire to spend the 5 August with my mother, as that day was their 63rd wedding anniversary. Sixty-three years is a long time. My father, a man who felt deeply but rarely found expression for his emotions, seldom spoke the words: I love you. We were supposed to know, and it didn’t occur to him that we would ever doubt his love. However, even though he couldn’t put his feelings into words himself, he never missed the opportunity to send my mother a sentimental, romantic wedding anniversary card telling her in someone elses’s words how he felt about her.
On 4 August 1999, although very poorly, he was still conscious as he lay in his hospital bed, and almost the last words he spoke were an apology to her for not being able to take her out to celebrate their anniversary. Then he slipped into unconsciousness; but something within him was still fighting for life until that special day was over. We felt he had won his last battle and that makes it much easier for us to remember him as this day comes around again.
Yesterday would have been their 77th anniversary. My mother recalls their wedding – it rained – and their honeymoon – it continued raining. She laughs about it, and reminisces happily about incidents and events. Her eyes brighten and her face grows young again, soft and tender. Sometimes she remembers things that annoyed her, and she gets cross with him again, but generally her memories are good ones and her annoyance doesn’t last. She has obviously forgiven him!
These two days of remembrance aren’t sad. The man we talk about isn’t the poor old fellow at the end of his life, coughing and gasping for air. It’s a brave young chap, strong, idealistic, impulsive and ready to take on the world.