Sing a sad song for a good man

My Dad died suddenly on January 21st this year. On February 1st I spoke at his funeral, and this is what I said:

Thank you all for coming to this celebration of my Dad’s life.  Particular thanks go to those of you who have flown here, or who have driven a considerable distance.

The last song that will be played today is on an album by Otis Gibbs called Joe Hill’s Ashes.  It’s one of Dad’s favourite albums. Otis Gibbs autographed it for Dad with the inscription “Thanks for giving a damn”. In the spirit of Otis Gibbs, I would like to thank you all for giving a damn and attending today.

It’s especially pleasing to see so many of Dad’s work colleagues here including many he worked with over twenty years ago. Dad was a man who tried to keep his work life and home life separate, and one of the most touching aspects of the past ten days has been reading the tributes that have poured in from those who worked with Dad that provide a different side to the father I knew. I remember being particularly proud of him , when his colleagues at Kirklees PCT gave him an “Amazon Award” in autumn 2010, for being “a natural resource, someone who knows something about everything”. The tributes that have followed my Dad’s death prove just how sincerely this message was meant.

Can I once again stress that if you have any little anecdotes or stories that you remember about Dad, can you please send them in to Mum. Such stories will be of great comfort in the months and years ahead. One such anecdote was sent to me by Dad’s school friend Alan, which with his permission I shall relate to you now. Once again, it provides a different side of Dad that I had never known about until the past two weeks.

Alan said to me that “We played hockey at school and took it very seriously and marched throughout the county sweeping all before us. I was a good outfield player but he took me aside one day and asked if I’d sacrifice that to play in goal because he wanted somebody there he could rely on. I did it without question. I wouldn’t have done it for anyone else. It’s a small incident but says a lot. If I looked up to him at the age of 16 I can tell you I have looked up to him for the years since.”

One of the things that gives me hope and confirms my faith in humanity is the support that Mum, Liam and I have received over the past ten days. There are a few people in particular: friends and family who have been extremely helpful in sorting out funeral arrangements, giving lifts or coming round for a supportive chat. I won’t embarrass these people by naming them individually: they all know who they are.  But I want you all to know that the friendship and solidarity that you have shown means more to me than I can say.

On the subject of love & friendship, I’d also like to thank those members of Dad’s family who are here, and many of his friends he’d known since school. Many of my friends have said to me over the past few days that they cannot imagine losing a father. Well, I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a friend I have known for forty years, or a brother, or a son, so I can only guess what you are all going through. I look forward to catching up with all of you later today, and only regret that it is in the most terrible of circumstances.

Finally, thank you to all of those that have come who knew Dad from the various sports or bridge clubs that he was a member of. I shall remember Dad as a man who gave me the passions that have guided my life so far. He gave up many of his weekends when I was younger ferrying me to various chess tournaments, and I have many happy memories of those days. The numerous books he bought me as a child instilled in me a love of reading, and this plus my fondness for music, which I also shared with Dad, have made me the person that I am today.

I want to end with a biblical quotation. It was one that Christopher Hitchens read out at the funeral of his own father. He chose it for its “non-religious yet high moral character”. That phrase sums Dad up. He was not a religious man. Whenever “Thought of the Day” came on he would immediately switch off the radio and play one of his numerous CDs.  But he was a man of the highest moral standards. Some of the words that occur again and again in tributes sent to us are kind, lovely, generous, gentle, reliable and caring. Dad was all of those things and more. I can only hope that Dad has passed on some of these characteristics to me. You can confirm for yourselves that I have inherited from him the infamous Hazlehurst receding hairline. I have sadly not inherited Dad’s great aptitude for running, but we spent many happy hours watching and talking about sport that I shall forever cherish.

So to conclude, here is Philippians Chapter 4, Verse 8:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

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