It has been a year since we lost my father-in-law, and since I wrote my tribute post to him Loss. Yesterday, on the anniversary of his death, we spread his and my mother-in-law’s ashes in St Andrews. She died 20 years ago and he kept her ashes as he wanted to be reunited with her. It was such a beautiful moment watching them be carried off together. When I told my colleagues what I was doing at the weekend, one of them commented that it would be a lovely day out. Through my splutters of laughter I said it would be a day out, but I wasn’t so sure about the lovely part. But she was right – it was lovely. It was a beautiful sunny day, there was hardly any wind (so minimal Big Lebowski moments…), and for my husband and sister-in-law especially, it was a form of closure on what has been a difficult year.
We have now done all the firsts. Christmas was the hardest, especially as my father-in-law would have turned 72 on Christmas Eve. And recently at my daughter’s first dance show, I was struck with sadness as I know if he had been here, her papa would have been proudly sitting watching 2 odd hours of dancing, to see his ‘wee sweetie’ dance in 4 dances. Whenever we go on holiday, my husband’s immediate instinct when we arrive is to call his dad to let him know we’ve arrived safely. And I know how sad he is when he realises that this isn’t necessary.
We have only recently finished going through his house, something that my husband especially found physically and emotionally draining. We are so grateful to all our friends and family who helped: whether it was babysitting the kids so I could help him, or lending a pair of hands. The hardest part of the whole process by far was deciding what to do with the many keepsakes that my father-in-law had squirrelled away in cupboards – things that clearly mattered to him but we had no idea what their story was. We kept some of them and gave away what we could, but there were ones that inevitably had to be put out. I don’t want to have to make those sorts of decisions again. As a result, I have asked my own parents to make a note of anything in their cupboards that have particular family significance. What we did discover was an 8mm film of my parent-in-law’s wedding which my husband got converted to a DVD. There is no sound, and it’s only about 5 minutes long, but it was clearly such a happy day. And it was so special to finally see my mother-in-law ‘move’; she is so like my sister-in-law.
Like other people I have lost, I occasionally find myself ‘listening’ to my father-in-law’s voice in my head, to make sure I still remember what he sounded like. I also have a video of my daughter where he talks in the background – my sister-in-law has watched it but my husband is not ready to yet. But it’s nice to know it’s there if he ever wants to hear his dad’s voice.
My daughter is now 3 and whilst we have tried to keep his memory alive for her, I can see it slipping away. When I recently showed her pictures of her and her papa that were taken when she was a baby, she thought he was her daddy – something I didn’t point out to my husband, not so much because he would be upset that she didn’t remember his dad, but more that she would mistake him for a man in his seventies…
But P is still always for Papa and I hope that continues for a while yet.