In my daughter Laura’s recent entry I could be making an almighty arse of the whole thing in her blog http://arewenearlythereyetmummy.com/ she writes of the loss of her mother when she was 9 years old and how the grief has dogged her; in her childhood, her teenage years and her life as a motherless mother. Above all, she misses a mothers confirmation that she is managing her family well. I have always been aware that, as a father, I could not give my daughter the essential maternal support; that I would inevitably fall short. In the years that followed the death of my wife there was a loss of equilibrium, balance and direction it was as though we as a family, had lost our navigator. We were metaphorically lost at sea.
I thought of my own family trauma as I looked at the sea of poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. I thought of the damage to the family unit that is a consequence of the premature death of a loved one. For although each poppy represents a dead soldier it should be remembered that it also represents a family which over the years following the World War, if not forever, must have been haunted with grief.
My grandfather Clem was killed at the battle of Arris in 1917. A stretcher bearer, he literally disappeared in the mud. I often think of my grandmother, the moment she was handed the telegram, the traumatic moment when all her dreams crashed. You see, Clem had a dream. Before the war he had invested in a publishing business that he planned to set up, with his brother Richard, in Los Angeles. A dream that, along with Clem, was buried forever. My childhood memories are of the remnants of this sad, lost family; my grandmother, draped in sadness and dressed in ‘widow weeds’ living with her spinster sister and a slightly odd unmarried brother in a house where time had stopped. One of my grandmother’s stock pieces of wisdom was that ‘life is a sair fecht’. And indeed her life had been a hard fight.
For a great part of the last century the whole country must have been awash with similar dysfunctional families struggling to come to terms with with the aftermath of war; the unimaginable loss. the anger at vainglorious generals and politicians.
So, to my daughter Laura, who has battled with her own grief, I would say that life is full of such random twists of fate. If my grandfather Clem had lived to follow his dream, my mother, would have grown up in America, would never have met my father and I would not have been born. If my wife had lived, she and I would have followed our own dreams. Our daughter’s life would have followed a different path. Her family, her children would not exist today.
Life is a sair fecht, a hard fight and my daughter is fighting a good fight. Her mother would be very, very proud of her.