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Papa Epicurienne

I’ve been largely absent of late, well, since 27 January, anyway, which is an unheard of amount of silence from me. I simply haven’t known how to write for a while. You see, I had one of those phone calls. You know the ones; when you’re smiling as you pick up the phone because you simply cannot predict how that one call will change your life forever, and by the time the call ends you’re not sure when you’re ever going to smile again. By the end of that day, I already knew that smiles would be a rare thing for a while.

At the end of January, shortly after my last post went up, my father went into hospital. We lost him the following morning. For once, I find myself completely without words to express how I and my family feel. It has been absolutely numbing, devastating and painful, all at once. So there are five stages of grief, are there? What a joke. I reckon we’ve been through at least a dozen, if not more, on the emotional equivalent of shuffle and replay.  

Two evenings before that terrible night by my father’s bedside at the hospital I was out with friends, toasting my deceased Scottish relatives at a Burns’ Night extravaganza. I had planned to visit my parents that coming weekend and was going to talk about Rabbie Burns, single-malt whisky, comfort foods and favourite culinary experiences with my father. Obviously, that didn’t happen. He slipped away from us before that much-anticipated weekend could arrive.

My father was a kind man, generous and interesting with an enviable non-judgmental streak. (Oh, that we could all be non-judgmental, like him.) He loved travel, forming one half of the parental team who instilled in both me and my brother a deep interest in the world. He encouraged my adventurous palate – thanks to him I enjoyed the likes of baby octopus or giant seafood-stuffed king prawns in Italian eateries in Sydney, and think of him every time I chew on juicy bits of lemony octopod. Together with my mother, Dad also ensured that his children had enough first-hand experience of different countries and their peoples to realise that just because ‘they’ or ‘we’ do it differently doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We always had an atlas in the house and I’m proud to say that our paterfamilias was a dear, loving and forgiving GENTLEMAN in the truest sense of the word. He took a great interest in sports, loved to cheer the All Blacks and/or Scotland in fierce matches of rugby, could always tell you who was doing what, where in the news, and topped it all off with his wicked, infectious sense of humour. My family and friends remember him most, I think, for the unconditional support he gave them, always with a wide, heart-warming smile.

In essence, my father was a true EPICUREAN in spirit. Perhaps that’s partly why I christened this blog EPICURIENNE, although it must be said that much as I thrive on writing and blogging, for many weeks now I’ve wondered how I’d come to write again. Along with my father, my beloved words left me. I couldn’t settle to put pen to paper. Out of the blue, I’ll remember a long-ago, nigh-forgotten snatch of time with my father and burst into tears, even at work, where I make it a rule never to cry. Then I realised that the only way forward is to get back to the blog to talk about this tremendous loss and explain how (quite literally) bereft I feel to know that it will be some time before my father and I sit down again together to put the world to rights.

And so, because I’m currently lacking in the ability to adequately or accurately express how it feels to lose my much-loved father, here is a poem that we, his family and friends, felt appropriate to read in his name. You see, Dad loved planes and airports even more than I do. We’re a family of plane-spotters, and proud of it.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God. 

  Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941   

Dad – thank you for everything. We love and miss you and look forward to the day when we’ll meet again – dancing the skies on laughter-silvered wings. Rest in peace.

Do not stand at my grave and weep

This is for the people I know who’ve lost close ones in recent weeks, and for all those who know what it feels like to lose someone. WARNING: do not read without kleenex to hand.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

To find out more about the poem’s attribution and history, please click here.

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