It would have been my parents’ wedding anniversary today, it would have been the sixty-second anniversary of their marriage, were it not for the fact that Dad died in March.
Sitting with mugs of tea this afternoon, we laughed at memories and we wondered what inscription might be appropriate for him. We have decided against using the inscription he requested which was, “miserable old bugger.“
There is an oddness in thinking about him. Although he only lived until the age of eighty-three, not a great age now, in fact, barely more than average, he seemed to have lived a very long time.
Perhaps it was his childhood in wartime London that seemed to make his life seem longer. Born in December 1936, he was not year three years old when the Second World War began, yet his earliest memories were those of the Blitz and the daily life of a city under attack.
Perhaps it was the overlap of lives that made his life seem longer. My great grandparents shared the house with my father’s family. My great grandfather was born in India in 1878, the son of Quartermaster Sergeant in the British army. Having survived serious wounds in the First World War, my great grandfather died in 1944, as a result of an air raid. My father was still only seven, but had many memories of his grandfather, a man who was very much of Victorian England.
Perhaps he seemed to have lived so long because he worked with the naval air service for forty years. Spending ten years in the Royal Navy, he worked on naval aircraft for a further thirty years, until he was made redundant before his fifty-sixth birthday. Forty years of military work, from aircraft carriers that had seen action in World War II to aircraft that served in the First Gulf War, his employment covered a large swathe of history.
Perhaps he seemed to have lived for so long because our own lives seem to have lasted a long time. Perhaps it is just a matter of personal perspective.
We said our farewell to him on 17th March, days before lockdown would have prevented our gathering. He was not a religious man and had a very strong antipathy towards the church. He accepted the idea of death in a very stoical way, believing it to be the task of those who were left to focus on their lives. I read lines from Ted Hughes that day:
Who is stronger than hope? Death.
Who is stronger than the will? Death.
Stronger than love? Death.
Stronger than life? Death.
But who is stronger than Death?
On this day, the first 16th August for sixty-one years that is not his wedding anniversary, Ted Hughes’ lines are a reminder to live life.