November 11th 1987 was a defining day for me, it was the day my 2nd parent passed away, so Sunday 11th November will have been 25 years since my dad died in his sleep.
The TV in his bedroom was on, the toilet had been flushed, so he had got up in the middle of the night. My wife went to take him a cup of tea (he lived in a granny annexe; part of our house), left it because she thought he was asleep, got the kids ready for school and went off to work. I had left for my job by train to London hours before. My wife got back mid morning and found that my dad hadn’t moved and wasn’t breathing. The first I knew was a phone call at work from my wife, I left in a hurry and a daze to catch the train home. She had arranged for a friend and neighbour to pick me up from the station, even though my car was there already. I got home, a police car was in the drive and one of those ‘private’ ambulances in the road. Dad was still in his bed, looking peaceful but grey, and very dead. I couldn’t cry, like I couldn’t when my mum died two years earlier. It’s not that I can’t express emotion or that it’s a ‘man’ thing not shedding tears; I just couldn’t. 25 years down the line I now realise that I had no emotion at that time, I was in my mid 30s and an orphan. It’s now as if I was a different person then, yes I had a wife and two young children to cope with and the normal hustle and bustle of life had to carry on, but looking back I wish I could have shed a tear. It’s not that I didn’t love my parents, I did, but even at that age I wasn’t ready emotionally to cope with the loss. I see people of my age now and I sometimes feel pangs of jealousy that their parents are still around in their 80s and 90s. But we’ve all got to go sometime and I suppose it’s a reaction against confronting my mortality. In my 40s I had periods when I couldn’t sleep I was so worried about the end of life, now it’s not so bad as it’s inevitable. My dad was a war hero, mentioned in dispatches; he spent four years in Burma and India, but I know little about what he did out there. He wouldn’t talk about it and I, to my bitter regret, didn’t ask. My dad was 65, just four years more than I am now, so what is my future?
So I will be ‘on parade’ on Remembrance Sunday, not because my dad was a victim of the war but because he was an old soldier and so was I. I want to commemorate all those that have gone before, who, and I hate the expression, gave their lives for their country. They didn’t. What these mostly men and some women did was to die as a result of actions outside their control and as a consequence of that action. Not one of them would have voluntarily given their lives except in a very few cases of selflessness, and their contribution to our freedom cannot be measured. Please support our troops, think of those who have died in the service of the country, pray that there will be mo more wars and stand silent for two minutes at 11 o’clock.