I lost my father many times.
During my early childhood, he was my rock. Distanced from my mother by her frailty and neediness, I craved his kindness and devotion, which supplied the precious fabric of childhood magic. My trust in him was absolute, my views and philosophy born of his philanthropy and wisdom.
All was well until, as a young teenager, I began to make my bid for freedom. My growing awareness of the opposite sex, disillusionment with the rigidity and constraints of my school regime and need for independence challenged my father deeply. I remember years of despair and misery, crying alone when his intransigence and imperviousness to reason left me powerless and craving understanding.
I tried desperately to reason with my father, to help him understand that he had turned from a loving Dad into an aggressive and controlling dictator, and he was making me very unhappy. He would not listen and in desperation I wrote him a letter. I still can hardly bear to re-live the scene as I handed it to him; he responded ‘you can write and write but it will make no difference’. He threw the letter on the fire unopened.
We never regained the closeness of my childhood, I married young to his clear disapproval and despite my subsequent achievements, he was lost to me, disinterested and disapproving of the path I took. Soon afterwards, tragically early, he developed dementia.
His subsequent death, within a couple of years, was a release for us all.
I never grieved for my father. In the first few years after his death I would wake in horror from dreams that he had returned, haunting us with distortions and confusion. I would not allow myself to experience the poignancy of loss, overshadowed by anger and incredulity that someone so wise and kind could turn so impenetrable and cold.
I was not prepared for the negative and destructive patterns of my life, which forced me to relive the loss of my father time and again. I learned repeatedly that death is not the only way to experience loss and betrayal. Ever hopeful and optimistic that, through my relationships with men, I had found again the security he once provided, I was deeply disappointed. With each failure, my attempts to reason were met with coldness and disregard. Symbolically, my letter was thrown on the fire unopened many times. Depression and self-deprecation dominated my life.
Over many years I made strenuous efforts to prove myself through promotion and academic achievement, seeking relief from the harshness of my relationships. Many years later, exhausted from trying too hard, I was forced to make major changes to my life. Craving release from the stress of emotional upheaval and too little reflection, I sought comfort in spiritual connection, reading extensively and practising healing techniques.
Over several years, things began to improve. People I loved and from whom I had become isolated began to re-emerge. Out of nowhere, an old friend sought me out. Slowly I realised that this was my soul mate; we became partners and negative patterns began to heal.
Seeking direction after yet more change, I consulted a gifted healer and medium, who recommended guided meditation. Before the second session, feeling a little depressed and directionless, I asked her for guidance. I didn’t know what I wanted her to do, simply that I needed to ask. I will never forget what happened next; she looked pensive, then she said ‘there’s a man here, is your Dad in the spirit world?’ I froze and nodded, she knew nothing of my background.
She said he had been waiting a very long time for me, he knew he hadn’t listened when I was young, but he wanted me to know I was ‘the apple of his eye’ and he was very proud of me. Then she said ‘did you write him a letter?’ I burst into uncontrollable sobs.
I told her the story and she replied ‘well, he’s read it now’. She said that he liked my partner, that we are soul mates. As he disapproved of my boyfriends so vehemently during my teenage years, this was very important to me. If I could have asked for anything from my father, it would have been that he was listening to me, he was proud of me and he approved of my partner.
Every word is exactly as it happened. During the guided meditation that followed, I experienced a profound sense of my father’s presence. We met on the shores of a lake near to the beautiful place where we used to fly my kite when I was a child. After my father’s early death more than twenty years ago, I believed I had lost him for good. I still have difficulty describing the overwhelming sense of joy I experienced at the reconciliation with my father. It was much more profound than it ever could have been in life, and since then I have felt his presence as a protective force.
If this had been the only miracle, its power alone would have transformed my life. I asked for no more and expected it to stand as a defining moment. My father, it seems, had different ideas. The more I explored my spiritual side, to meditate and surrender, interpret my dreams and discover the things I still had to offer to this world, the more he made his presence known. In my vivid dreams, he came to challenge and inspire; variously disguised as clowns, deep sea divers, mysterious strangers and much more.
Shortly after his contact with me, I stood on an ancient tower in Tuscany, watching the sunset and admiring a captivating landscape I knew he would have loved; I asked silently if he could see what I saw. Before my next meditation, without prompting I was asked if I had been standing on a roof, and told that he was there.
I began to write, a childhood desire which had never before been realised. I knew that my true path in life was emerging and again consulted the healer through whose amazing gifts my father had returned. She advised me to write my father a letter, clarifying the things I wanted to achieve and he would help me to bring them into being. At first, the irony did not strike me.
Inspired as never before, I closed my eyes and sent away visions of the things my soul wanted to give. I knew that writing, in all its forms, had incredible power to heal.
On a beautiful sunlit day, I set out to visit my mother, now in her 80’s and in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Feeling my father’s presence very close and crossing the moors where we spent so much time together in my childhood, I spoke to him silently of my aspirations.
For many years I have heard the lyrics of songs playing through my head, often I will wake with a song repeating over and over. More recently I have come to understand that listening to the lyrics provides inspiration for my preoccupations. As I drove along, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Song for the Asking’ came into my mind:
‘Here is my song for the asking, ask me and I will play,
So sweetly I make you smile.
Here is my dream for the taking, take it don’t turn away,
I’ve been waiting all my life.
Thinking it over I’ve been sad,
Thinking it over I’d be more than glad, to change my ways,
For the asking,
Ask me and I will play,
All the love that I hold inside’
Reflecting on the lyrics, I realised their profound significance for my life.
Later that day, I took my mother shopping. Her illness is progressing and moments of lucidity are scarce. At times she does not know us. As we left a supermarket, she said ‘it’s funny, but I’ve been thinking about your Dad, I saw him with you’. I asked when she had seen him and she replied, ‘just, in there, he was standing beside you, I saw his smiling face’; perhaps a coincidence, but on a day when I felt his presence so vitally, a wonderful affirmation of my father’s love and protection and a poignant moment of connection with my mother. I had waited so long to make my father smile.
As I drove home, again I became aware of a song playing through my head: ‘I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do, My gift is my song and this one’s for you’
Elton John’s ‘Your Song’, maybe just my subconscious desire for a reply from my father to my ‘Song for the Asking’; or just maybe another small miracle on a day of miraculous connection.
I had decided to write about my experiences but thought I should leave out the part about my father’s reply. I felt this was stretching credibility too far, if I hadn’t already done so. My father, again, had other ideas. A while later came the words: ‘And you can tell everybody, this is your song’
Many years after his death, intoxicated by the miracle of resurrection, inspired by joy as deep as the sadness which last prompted me to write these words, I began, ‘Dear Dad…’