It is five weeks since my dear Dad (James Davis Stanley, known as Jim) died and it is only really hitting me that I won’t see him again. The visits to see my Mum are strange now and his presence is sadly lacking. Always a larger-than life-figure, Dad was the king of practical jokes and even though he had dementia for the past few years, he still loved a laugh.
When I arrived into the house in recent years, he would always ask if Graham was with me. Being a ‘city slicker’ in his eyes, Graham was often the victim of his practical jokes in the early days of our courtship.
On one occasion, he asked Graham to help him with some fencing. ‘Pick up that wire over there’ he told him. My poor naïve fiancé, eager to help, grabbed the wire of an electric fence and and nearly jumped out of his skin with the shock.
‘If you didn’t want me to marry your daughter, all you had to do was say so!’ Graham said when he had recovered his powers of speech.
Being the first born and only child for six years until Rosie arrived, my Dad was my hero when I was young.
On my first day at primary school, (aged 3 and ¾) I was ferried to school on his motorbike. I made him sit with me in the little infant desk until he finally told me he had to check on the much-loved bike and then disappeared.
A very sociable man, Dad loved people and was always willing to help out neighbours by offering to drive them to visit relatives in hospital or to appointments. He loved weddings and we were delighted that both he and Mum were able to attend Kirsty’s and Mark’s wedding five years ago.
In his later years, he was an avid funeral-goer and always liked to pay his respects in the time-honoured country way.
When he died, my five sisters and I were astounded by the sheer volume of people who came to the funeral home to show their respect for him. We shook hands and chatted to friends of his or their children and grandchildren for nearly 5 hours, as over 800 people queued to commiserate with us.
It was both humbling and comforting and we heard some lovely stories about Dad.
On the day of the funeral, it was the same. People were eager to share their memories and it was clear that he had made a huge impact on the community. In the country, everyone knows everyone else and even those who were new to the area had heard of Dad. Local shopkeepers who knew him stood at their doors as the hearse went by.
The entire experience made me realise the importance of these rituals. And I remembered all those people who did not have that because of Covid. It must have made it much more difficult to say goodbye. I would imagine they felt robbed. The loss of a loved one is difficult enough, but not to have the support of friends around you makes it even more traumatic.
We were privileged that we gave him a good send-off. The Church of Ireland service was beautiful, led by the present Rector, helped by our former Rector and the local parish priest who was also a good friend of Dad’s.
Dad would have been 90 later this year. Yes, he had worked very hard. But he also made the most of his retirement years. He was pragmatic about death. It was a certainty and he was never upset if the person had lived a good and long life. But he found the death of young people hard to take.
I imagine Dad would have said his was a good funeral.