It was my father’s funeral yesterday. I reproduce here the words I said, and follow them up with a few musings.

Dad, or Chris, or Uncle Chris, Grandad, or whatever you called him, was a difficult man to know. He was, fundamentally, quiet and reserved. Almost everyone who has sent us tributes has called him a gentle man. I don't think I ever really thought about it, until now - to me he was, at least until dementia robbed us of everything except the 'empty shell', just Dad.

He was always shy, and didn't enjoy crowds of people. Being the son of the village doctor, birthday parties arranged by Gran tended to be large affairs... It was certainly not unknown for him to hide away in a wardrobe in the (usually vain) hope of avoiding them! Things didn't change much later either - I can well remember him using 'going up the field' as an excuse to get away from social gatherings, which I always thought was fair enough because he did have a lot of work to do running the nursery. Alas, I didn't have the same excuse! Mind you, once I was big enough to express an opinion, I wasn't forced to have birthday parties - I suspect that was his influence over Mum.

At Eternity's Shore

As I was saying in my previous post, I was very worried about how I was going to get to the point of death without putting my family through hell. And I have absolutely no control over that, beyond keeping myself as fit and healthy as I can - eating well, exercising, and keeping my mind active. It felt like a complete lottery - would I go the way of my father's family, or my mother's?

I went and spent an afternoon this week with a dear friend, who is full of God's grace and wisdom, and who is a great person to turn to when one needs help to see things as they are, and as God sees them, rather than as one imagines them. We spent most of the afternoon talking around all sorts of issues - but mostly about my dad, my past and my future - including my fears regarding dementia.

Following that chat, a number of messages have passed between us, as I 'processed' the conversation in my mind, and fresh insights occurred to both of us.

The first thing which occurred to me were the words of a song (from "In Christ Alone", a 2001 song by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend):

When the Evening Comes

My father died this week - on Monday, 2nd February, to be precise. He had been ill, with dementia, for many years. Yesterday, whilst looking for something on my computer, I came across a letter I'd sent him in October 2005 which, on reading back through it, reveals that the early signs of dementia were already beginning to make themselves felt.

For the past few years, he really hasn't been 'him' - there has been a sort of shambling shadow of the man I once knew, but none of the person; the personality; the humour; the wisdom - all stripped away by that dreadful disease (actually, I think it's worse for those 'left behind' than for the sufferer - he seemed blissfully unaware). In the end, he came down with bronchial pneumonia, and lasted about another 24 hours, sleeping away quite peacefully. It has, as you can probably imagine, caused a whole spectrum of emotions, and a lot of pondering and remembering.

The main emotion has actually been relief that the torture (torture for his family at least - watching him slowly 'leave us', and then trying to care for the 'empty shell') is finally over. I haven't actually felt particularly sad, other than just in odd moments. At one point I felt sad because I wasn't feeling sad (if that makes any sense at all!) - sad that I'd done almost all my mourning while he was still, at least nominally, alive.

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2022