Home' Aurora : Aurora June 2013 Contents The loss of a lifetime
BY JOANNE ISAAC
Zimmerman Services Team Leader David
Muxlow speaking at the opening.
Parish Priest Fr Bill Burston with Acting
Director Jennifer Smith.
(l-r) Peter Gogarty, Maureen O'Hearn, Bev and
Members of the Signing Choir from St
Dominic's Centre, Mayfield entertained the
On 9 June it will be twenty-five years since
my Dad died. He was 47 years old and I
He had been sick with complications from
diabetes for more than two years and
had suffered a stroke the year before he
died. He was depressed and indescribably
sad that recovery was unlikely at best. He
rarely smiled and retreated, physically and
emotionally, from his four older children. My
much younger sister, thankfully, brought
him uncomplicated joy during those last
When the second stroke hit he fell into a
coma, succumbing three days later when
his heart failed. It was the defining moment
of my life and I remember it with a clarity
that makes every memory from the years
before scatter like dandelion seeds in the
I remember the fog that enveloped us --
the denial, numbness, anger and relief; a
swirling tornado of emotions. I remember
my Mum's grief. I remember making phone
calls with my three brothers to tell everyone
he was gone. I remember the funeral, the
burial and wake. I remember reading the
sympathy cards over and over. I remember
making my debut a week after his funeral
and feeling like I was dislocated from my
body. I remember the awkwardness of
going back to school when no-one spoke
to me about it. I have never felt more alone.
Life went on and we all learnt to accept
that Dad was gone. We banded together
and got through it, just like the members
of other families when they lose someone
they love. My brothers and I were adults
(or almost adults), just starting down the
road to independence. My sister, who was
only seven when Dad died, became Mum's
focus and lifeline. We got used to missing
him. We laughed. We finished school and
university, got jobs, fell in love. We lived
without him. It got easier.
I have always missed my Dad, but lately
I have missed him with an intensity that
has, at times, taken my breath away. I am
getting closer to the age he was when
he died. I have three young children. I am
finally starting to understand, after years
of feeling hard done by, just how tragic
and difficult it must have been for him to
know he was going to die, to know that he
would miss so much. I have real empathy
felt abandoned by him long before he died
and I resented him for that. I was a normal
teenager -- more than a little self-absorbed.
I couldn't understand his suffering then, but
I certainly can now, when I myself have so
much to lose.
I mourn the loss of the adult relationship
I will never have with my Dad. I long to sit
with him, even just for one day, and tell
him all the things he's missed. It feels like
a lifetime to catch up on. I would tell him
about the five wonderful people my siblings
and I married -- fantastic people he never
knew. I would tell him about his fourteen
utterly astonishing grandchildren who
would not be gracing this earth without him.
What a great 'Pa' he would have been!
I would tell him about the unbelievable
changes that have happened in the world
over the past twenty five years -- how he
would have loved the internet. I would talk
to him about religion and politics and sport
and parenting. I would listen to his answers.
I would love to debate with him and laugh
with him and be treated as a friend and not
a child. I would love to see him relaxed and
happy -- it's how I imagine he would have
been as he grew older and the pressure of
Would he recognise himself in us? Would
he see our younger selves in our children?
My eldest brothers, who are twins, just
turned 47, the same age Dad was when he
died. They look so young to me, so vibrant
and full of life. They have so much ahead
of them. They are not weighed down as
Dad was and we can only be grateful for
this, but their birthday has been a stark
reminder of how young Dad was when he
On the 20th anniversary of his death
Mum gave each of us a photo book that
told Dad's life story. She wrote a letter to
accompany the book that talked about
the photos she had included and the
memories each had elicited for her. She
wrote about falling in love with Dad and
the many happy times they shared. This
letter was very powerful for me as I
can't really remember Dad being happy.
It was so lovely to see him through her
eyes and memories.
Mum wrote, "He told me, on more than
one occasion, that the worst pain, for
him, was the thought of leaving his family.
He need not have feared -- his spirit and
goodness live on in each of you, his
much loved children." How true this
is. He is reflected and honoured
speak about him often and I know
that his grandchildren feel like
they know him. You can see
him physically in the looks and
gestures of my siblings and me
and you can certainly hear him
when we trot out one of his catchphrases!
We all value education, good manners and
excellent grammar! We have a keen sense
of social justice and a propensity to be
over-protective of our kids. Mum, of course,
could be credited with all these things as
well, but they were big on Dad's agenda
and we all remember that. My brothers are
all excellent husbands to their wives -- they
definitely had a good role model in their
Dad and were lucky to witness the way he
respected and loved Mum. I can really see
him in each of my brothers.
I know he would be proud of us all,
especially his much loved wife. Since
losing him, Mum has led her life with
dignity, patience, love and a keen sense of
adventure. He needn't have spent time
Joanne and her Dad Trevor.
worrying if she would be ok. Her inner
strength and faith are legendary. His love
has sustained her and always will.
Dad's death was tragic and unfair. Who
knows how differently our lives and
relationships with each other would be had
we not lost him at such a vulnerable time?
It will never be ok that he died when he did.
There will never be anything good about
it. The best we can do is to remember him
with love and understanding, spend quiet
moments talking to him and nurture those
special Dad qualities within each of us and
our children. We will live life knowing how
precious and fragile it is and make each
day count. That will be our gift to him.
Opening of CatholicCare Mayfield
Brand new facilities for CatholicCare Social Services Hunter Manning were opened and blessed by Bishop Bill Wright.
For more photos please visit www.mn.catholic.org.au (Galleries).
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
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