Courtesy of The Guardian.com | By Anonymous | Originally Published 01.28.2018 | Posted 02.19.2018
‘It seems treacherous to say I had a very happy childhood after you died’: the letter you always wanted to write.
Nowadays, when a parent dies, there is a greater acknowledgment of the importance of maintaining their presence as a member of the family. This wasn’t the case for us in July 1975 when you died, suddenly and at only 35 years old.
There was no warning; you had long-damaged arteries but had been declared fit only weeks before. When the impact of the cricket ball winded you temporarily, you played on for several minutes. It was while walking off the pitch that you collapsed with a cardiac arrest. Then the horrific coincidence of the ball’s impact on your arteries became clear.
Overnight, you disappeared from our lives. We were not permitted to attend your funeral; it was not deemed suitable for young children. I hope this prevailing wisdom has changed now, while acknowledging that our absence enabled our 33-year-old newly widowed mother to grieve openly without fear of frightening us with the depth of her despair and fear.
We moved house, started new schools and she took on the role of two parents, tirelessly and admirably until her remarriage many years later.
It seems treacherous to say I had a very happy childhood after you died. Mum ensured that we did not miss out on anything that our two-parented friends experienced, and in many ways overcompensated with holidays abroad and spontaneous Sunday day trips to the beach.
I am sure your loss was felt by us all but it was never discussed, and the longer the silence was maintained, the more difficult it was to reverse.
What is not spoken about so frequently is the impact of parental loss into adulthood. The regret that you did not see my sister and me graduate, marry, have children and embark on our professional lives. That you never got to meet your grandchildren – two boys for me, two girls for my sister, all four of them self-assured, kind, thoughtful, intelligent young people.
What has become more apparent as I have grown older is the shift in where my pity lies. As a teenager and young adult, it was easy to grieve for what I might have missed out on. Now, as a parent and aunt, I grieve on your behalf, for what you didn’t experience, what you will continue to miss as your grandchildren grow up. I have faith that they each reflect aspects of who you were, but wish I could name your legacy for them and for us.