Many happy returns


Recently, I changed my car. Now, everywhere I look, I see the same model and colour; there’s even one that parks two spaces away from me at work. I never noticed it before. Synchronicity? Coincidence? Or maybe there’s a part of my brain that just notices them more now that I own one? Over the past few days, I’ve stumbled across several articles about the experience of losing a parent where I’ve read about grief, gratitude, guilt and a plethora of other complex emotions.

Why is it that, even years after the event, adults who lost parents can still carry so much overwhelming emotion? Surely, as grown-ups we’re programmed to expect the loss of our parents? Surely that means our grief will not be as great as other griefs? Perhaps, but I don’t believe bereavement comes with a colour chart that tells you how intense the shade of your grief should be, though, for a
long time after my father died, I thought perhaps it did and that I’d got my hue wrong. Someone asked me whether I thought I’d have been more upset if my boyfriend (now my husband) rather than my dad had died, whilst six weeks after his death someone told me: ‘You’ll be over it by now.’ Yet another someone



declared what had happened would be “the making” of me.

Our parents made us, physically, emotionally and spiritually; that’s why, whatever their legacy in our lives, we cannot remain ambivalent when we remember them. For me, I am thankful without reserve for the inheritance of love, faith and resilience I’ve been gifted by my parents.

Just last week, I read in the book of Zechariah chapter 8: “The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration …” This weekend saw the anniversaries of both my parents’ birthdays. Rather than mourning, I have imagined the celebrations we would have held as my dad turned eighty; the secrets and surprises I and my siblings along with the spouses he never saw us marry, the grandchildren he never got to meet, would have planned. And right there in the middle of it all Mum, composing and orchestrating it all. For my parents, their birthdays reached the end of their returns, but for me, this anniversary is an opportunity for joy and celebration for all my parents were during their lives on this earth, for their hands in my life and for the rewards their faith brought them in their deaths. The happy returns are now for me to enjoy, along with all who loved, and lost, them.