Wednesday 31 August 2016

The sound of silence

On Tuesday night, I lost my dad. He was 84.

My dad as a toddler in the early 1930s
My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer 18 years ago, but his illness was kept under control with medication for years, leaving him with quite a good quality of life.

Always an active man, who played sports and loved walking and cycling, a bad knee slowly put a stop to all that, but he had many other interests, and reading and doing the crossword, as well as his life-long love of everything aircraft-related, kept him busy and - at first sight, at least - contented.

For the last couple of years, he seemed to be losing his way a bit (figuratively speaking, not literally) and he often complained of not feeling well, not in the physical sense, but a vague feeling of unease he couldn't seem to snap out of.

Not being a man who easily talked about his feelings didn't really help ...

At 15 years old, in 1947
Then, last June, he was told his cancer medication wasn't adequate anymore and that he needed to switch to a different one. This consisted of monthly injections, for which he needed a new permit. When this came through, it listed all possible side effects, which made him fear for the quality of the remaining years of his life. It took the family's joint efforts to persuade him to try it at least for one month and finally, after 8 months, he got his first injection. In the intervening months, however, the cancer got a chance to spread, although we could only guess at that since he refused all further interference. But all the typical signs were there: loss of appetite, spectacular weight loss and increasing pain in his lower back.

Late 1940s
Although it was his wish to stay at home until the end, last Saturday we had no choice but to have him admitted to hospital until a hospital bed and proper care could be arranged at home.

On Sunday his condition had deteriorated in such a way that it was clear that going back home was not an option.

It was heart wrenching to see him decline in such a short space of time, especially as this could probably have been avoided or at least postponed if he hadn't been so determined that his life was over anyway.

In Dylan Thomas's words, I could have urged him to "not go gently into that good night" and to "rage, rage, against the dying of the light".


In August 2001, my mum died. She was only 65. It seems like it was yesterday and an eternity ago at the same time and, because the end of her suffering was a relief at first, it is only in the last couple of years that I really started missing her.

Will the same happen with my dad? Will time heal all wounds? Will only Kodachrome memories remain in the end?

With my mum and me
My dad was stubborn, opinionated, self-absorbed and insecure, all of which I have inherited from him in some degree.

At the same time, I owe so much to him, even though at times it's been an effort to see the good things.

After all, in yet another English poet's words: they fuck you up, your mum and dad ...

So here's to my dad, to whom I owe being an Anglophile, who made me appreciate music and especially jazz and the blues, from whom I inherited a love of reading, walking, a hunger for knowledge, and above all a sometimes cynical sense of humour.


And so the super 8 film of his life slowly ground to a halt, the colours fading, the reel flapping, until somebody somewhere turned off the whirring projector and all was quiet.

The sound of silence.


  1. My heart goes out to you dear Ann. I lost my dad when he was 54.
    Much love Lynn xxxx

  2. Sweet Anne, with all my heart, I am truly sorry for your - and your family's - tragic loss. My thoughts are with you so very much.

    Gentle hugs & wishes of soothing serenity,
    ♥ Jessica

  3. My condolences on the loss of your beloved father.

  4. So very sorry to hear of your loss, Anne. Your dad was obviously someone who knew his own mind. You clearly tried your best to show him how much you cared and I'm sure he will have understood that. This missing people business is funny, there's no rhyme or reason as to when it can happen. I think it's a tribute though. I've no doubt you were a lovely daughter to both of them xxx

  5. I'm so sorry to hear of your father's passing away.

  6. dear ann - thinking of you and hugging you virtually!
    take your time to mourn and sort things out. there is no rule how it has to be. just your needs.

  7. I'm so sorry to hear this.

    As Beate wisely says, when it comes to mourning, there are no rules - feel what you feel, and let your grief have its time.

  8. I am truly sorry for your loss Ann xxx

  9. So sorry to hear about your loss. My sincere condolences.

  10. Oh Anne, I'm so sorry to hear about your loss and to hear what your dad went through. My thoughts are with you and your family. xxx

  11. This is a touching post, Ann. It reveals your love for your dear father ... I am very sorry ...
    A hug

  12. My condolences via the internet too, Anneke. A beautifully written and touching tribute.

  13. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad Ann, your tribute to him is touching. They say time is a healer and in a way it is, but I think I miss my mum more now than when she died (also from bastard cancer) five years ago. Sending you strength. xxx

    1. Thank you Fiona, and I know exactly what you mean as I too miss my mum more now than when she died ... xxx

  14. I'm so sorry to read your news Anne, but what a wonderful post thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures of your Dad and his life. Be kind to yourself. Big hugs x

    1. Thanks, Gisela, it was actually quite therapeutic writing that post ... xxx

  15. I'm so sorry, dear Ann. Your Dad sounded like a wonderful man and the photos are beautiful. A lovely tribute.

  16. Such a beautifully written post about your dad. Time is a great healer believe me and remember there is no right way or wrong way to grieve the loss you have just been through. Take good care of yourself and remember all those memories you made with your dad. Sending you hugs from me.

  17. I'm so sorry that the end was difficult in that he gave up to a certain extent. It must have been so hard for you. I am glad for the happy times and traits he gave you. Sending you many hugs in retrospect!xx

    1. Thank you Kezzie, I appreciate your kind words and am sending you a hug right back xxx

  18. I am so sorry to read of your loss of your dad.