The Things You Think When Someone Dies.

Wally Varley Self Portrait
A self-portrait drawn shortly before he died, scribbled on the back of a bill.

My Dad died on Wednesday the 8th, a week before his 88th birthday. It was sudden, but not a surprise, he was 88 after all.  In thirteen days I have lost my first parent, seen my first corpse, attended my first funeral and given my first eulogy. It has been a very long fortnight. Each day passes a little easier than the one before, and I have already faced the guilty realisation that this week does not hurt as much as last week, and that next week will probably hurt even less.

At his funeral, I spoke about the difficulties I had putting him into words. I hope I live a long life, and die with as varied a circle of friends as he had. His achievements were almost unbelievable. In his time he was the first of his family to enter Grammar School, wrote a novel, programmed one of the earliest Golf games for home computer, spoke pretty good French despite never leaving the UK and was a decent artist. When he died, he filled one side of a little Chapel within walking distance of the house he spent most of his life in. We gave those in attendance a booklet containing some of his poetry and a grumpy looking self portrait on the front, so people could see a side of him that not many people knew about.

Now the funeral is over, there’s a real sense of getting back to the way things were. For better or worse, life without Dad begins today, but there’s a tangible sense of separation between before and after. I didn’t live with my Dad any more, he wasn’t involved in the day to day decisions of my life, but the world still feels like a different place without him. I still feel my mind reaching for him when someone tells me a story he would have liked or some family news reaches me, maybe that will never go away.

I’m not that nostalgic, most of my memories of Dad are pretty mundane and of value only to those who knew him well. I like to remember the little details, the way he greeted me, the way he asked me about his day, the way he sounded on the phone. But I wrote about one of my favourite memories of Dad here before. I told that story again in my eulogy. It has been a long fortnight. I haven’t really written about Dad, I might never write about him again. But it’s time to get back to work, and I couldn’t pick up where I left off without marking his passing. I can think of no better way to do it than to leave you with his own words.

TIME PEACE by Wally Varley
The clock will diligently
dock the seconds off the
lives of all that come
within its span and can
move fast or slow, according
haste or leisure in its hand.
The man who, waiting for the
train to take him to his
wife, sees minute things go
crawling by, when flying is
the way that he would take
the time to make the meeting.
The woman, standing in the
shade, who should have
made the better of her day,
finds time impatient in its
haste to waste the secret
moments she had planned.
And children on their way
from school, who fool
around with crayons on
the wall, are all too innocent
to see how quick their
childhood is depleting.
And through the weeks, the months
and all the years ahead
the clock will tick, and cross
off days and nights, till
rights and wrongs are long
forgotten by the dead