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« Motherhood and God | Main | Learning to live in the moment, with a bit of help from the footy »

Beyond words

My dad was a scholar, so words were his thing. He knew them, loved them, understood their history, realised their power.

He was also a man of profound faith, and he lived on the opposite side of the globe from me.

Not so long ago I visited him and his wife for two weeks and we had a whale of a time, travelling, eating, drinking, seeing family, revelling in the magnificence of a northern spring, celebrating his 94th birthday. The night before I flew back to Australia, my step-mum asked if there was a reading from the Bible that our family traditionally used on such occasions.

That was an easy one. Psalm 121, read at mum’s funeral, read each time we were about to part, something we did a lot through my childhood, teens and young adulthood. I jumped up to fetch a Bible, but Dad said he didn’t need one and delivered the Psalm, word perfect, including the killer last line, ‘The Lord will preserve your going out and your coming in, from this time forward and for ever more’. Then he offered a prayer.

Soon after my return to Melbourne, dad had a major stroke. Already somewhat blind and deaf, now the man of words could no longer speak, although for a few days he understood instructions, and his eyes lit up when family visited.

My step-brother arranged for me to call Dad, and held the phone to his ear as through tears I poured out my love for him, my grief at this latest misfortune, my deep gratitude that we had had two wonderful weeks together so recently. In response, I could hear his dear, measured tones, so familiar from hours of childhood story-reading, no longer making any sense but so recognisably his. In his rambling, two sounds emerged repeatedly. They sounded like ‘grateful’ and ‘bless’.

These were his last words to me. I can think of none better to capture how he lived, how he felt about me and what he wished for me.

A week later, the man of words had a peaceful end. The incapacity had been very hard, but he was not afraid of death or whatever lies after. There are no longer words for dad, but what he had at the end transcended words; the love, both human and divine, with which he was surrounded and held, in life and beyond.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 16 September 2018



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Reader Comments (3)

Beautiful words from you too Clare. xx

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJane Zag

Dear Clare - so sad to read of your dear Dad's death. We didn't know him personally but feel we did know a lot from your stories and reminiscences of your family life. Lovely that you had that special time together just before he passed away..Our thoughts are with you and all the family,
Marg & Bill H

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarg Hebb

Tear drops are falling for you and the story so beautifully told.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrigid Walsh

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