My county cap sat at the same angle on my head, my hands were in the pocket in just the same way and I hoped and hoped that my unruly hair would look as carefully careless as his did. Then came my teens and my jeans were the same shade as his, my music taste was like his and we sang the same duets together. I shared all the same religious, political and social views as his. No, he didn’t force them on me but he was so eloquent, passionate and verbose about what he thought and felt that it was easy to sway his way.
I took his advice on life, shared with him my grand dreams, sobbed on his shoulders when my heart broke and confided each of my crushes to him. My marriage somewhat distanced us initially because I didn’t know where my loyalties lay but that quickly settled in to a comfortable easy relationship again. He remained the same dad. He was always there to listen to my endless chatter, my thoughts and my banter. I knew I could count on him. He cared and he always showed it.
Suddenly, without warning, even without a word, he went away. My mum was on his deathbed and all he wanted to do was see his children for the last time. He could not because although my dad had always been there for me, I could not be there for him in his last moments. All I saw was a lifeless body and a photograph of him next to the bed. That’s the day my faith shook, life looked transient, fragile and for the first time I felt vulnerable. My hero was not there to look after me.
As a kid, I thought he was the strongest man alive, invincible and ever-present, but I realized that death takes away everything, it erases everything, removes everything and deletes all that we have saved, hold dear or deem precious. It makes me look at my life again and wonder what I will leave behind.
Does that make me want to live less? No, it makes me want to be as exuberant and gregarious as my dad was. It makes me want to be magnanimous in thoughts, actions and feelings. It makes me want to live his life, emulate his ways and copy him still. It makes me want to tell people I love them and makes me want to help those who are in need. It makes me want to look beyond greed, jealousy, money, power and hatred. It makes me want to appreciate everything, admire everything and leave love and memories for the people who I will leave behind one day. Just like my dad.
What do I want to leave behind? A life so rich, a personality so well-loved that my children will miss me and will want to emulate my ways.