My father

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I am older than my father lived to be; his death was more than half my life ago. My children, not yet alive while he still breathed, faces without form whilst he had sight, voices still unspoken while he still heard, are older now than I was the day his heart forgot to beat again, the day my heart broke into its new rhythm. Bereaved. Bereaved. Bereft.
And now, it’s Father’s Day once more. I still mourn the cards I no longer send. But the sun that warms my skin, once drew freckles on his arms. The moon that lights my nights with silver, frosted his yester-skies. And my sometimes cloud-swallowed stars are the same that sometimes hid from him. And I see him everywhere. And I hear him every day. And my heart beats with the rhythms he taught me. And I thank God for every heartbeat. For every breath. For every moment. And I know that there is no bereaved in eternity.

Dad smiling

Dad smiling

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Where characters come from (3): Dylan Lachlan

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Ships in the night. The summer I learned what that meant, I was fourteen. And a half. I was on holiday with my family. Camping. That was the summer the realisation of my own mortality struck me so forcibly that, so afraid of falling asleep and never waking again, I spent the whole night nestled in the safety that was the space between my parents. It was also the summer of my not-quite-kiss. His name was Mark and he was not-quite-eighteen. For a few brief days, our lives sailed alongside one another. On the last of those days, for the briefest of not-quite-single afternoons, Mark held my hand. And at the end of that afternoon, for a moment that lasted less than a breath, he brushed his lips across mine and was gone and I didn’t know whether I’d been kissed or not. Ships that pass in the night. Some people are with you for a season, then gone for a lifetime, my father explained as I nursed a heart not-quite-broken. That was the summer I stopped being fourteen and a half. That was the summer I turned not-quite fifteen. 

Years, more than I could ever imagine living when I was not-quite-fifteen, have passed since that summer. Other Marks came and went. Some left my heart more than broken, some limped away with their heart not-quite-intact. The seasons I spent sailing alongside my parents have gone. My eldest child will soon have lived for half of my lifetime. And I thank God for those ships that have passed; for those whose waters I have yet to share. I am even thankful for the times I was so broken I thought I would never mend. I am thankful to have learned about love and loss and the treasuring of times that can never be gone as long as they live in my heart. And I look forward to discovering alongside which of those ships I will sail in eternity.

Mark was the template for Dylan Lachlan in my novel Strong as Death. Dylan has Mark’s eyes …