Goodbye Dad.

On April 12, 2015 by Simon Fleming

Dads_funeral-22Two weeks ago my father was hit by a car whilst on his mobility scooter. After a two day battle in hospital he passed away. Despite his age, this was certainly not how I nor any of my family expected him to leave us. Because his death was attributed to a vehicular accident, and Easter was only a few days away my family had to put his funeral on hold whilst the coroners office slowly completed their investigation – it has been a tough two weeks.

In that time I decided I wanted to had to speak at his funeral, along with my sister. I had no illusions as to how tough that was going to be but I felt as his son it was the ultimate sign of respect I could show him. I literally couldn’t put pen to paper until the day before his funeral. At 1 am I began to write, and the tears began to flow once again. This time however most were tears of happiness as I began to recall many of the great moments I shared with him, and of the reasons I am the man I am today – because of him. I had looked through literally thousands of photos in the week prior to this, both for personal reasons and also to choose a selection of images to add to a slideshow of his life to be shown at his funeral. I am under no illusion as to how lucky I am to have those – many families have none.

Photography. It has always been a big part of my life but at times like this the importance of it’s role hits me like a slap to the face.

I would like to share the following with you – the words I wrote, and spoke at my father’s funeral.

“From his 87 years he has left a legacy that is truly something to be proud of. In his lifetime he made countless lasting friendships, and enriched many other’s lives having been a part of them. He was a friend you could depend on, and one that was always willing to work hard and lend a hand when needed. He was a kind man, a happy soul. Always smiling – and often a mischievous smile at that.

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There is an abundance of things I could talk about when it comes to my father’s life, so many positives, so many achievements, so much to be proud of as a son. But I would like to concentrate on what he meant to me…

Over the past 2 weeks in preparing to speak about him today I have had a lot of time to reflect. It has been very difficult at times to work out what to say but then when I think about what I would have missed out on if he had not been my dad it suddenly became so easy…  He instilled many important values in me – things I learnt from watching him. Integrity, perseverance, self belief, courage and respect of others to name but a few.

I have fond memories of my first overseas trip which was with mum & dad when he retired in 1988 – I was around 14. We travelled to Hong Kong, and then were in Singapore for Christmas – what an unbelievable experience that was. We returned to Australia via Darwin for a week. Whilst in Darwin during the wet season I had my first real taste of Australia & the outback, and I knew I would return to see more of it some day under my own steam. Seeing pictures of dad during his time at Woomera and listening to his stories only added to my growing desire to see more of the outback. I am very fortunate to have seen as much as I have in the short time that I have, and that is another aspect of my life that I would like to thank my father for. My sense of adventure was definitely allowed to grow with the help of both mum & dad – he and mum encouraged me to follow my dreams, and always enjoyed listening to my exploits, and the phone calls from out of the way places.

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Today I am proud to say I earn my living as a photographer. I have always loved holding a camera to my eye,  and have appreciated more and more over the years the value & importance of pictorial records. This I can also attribute to my dad. He was the spark for that passion, and deserves a lot of the credit for what I have achieved in this field. Amongst many of his hobbies (including moving house – which I partook in more times than I care to remember) was photography, and he was a damn good photographer in his own right. I used to borrow his gear, ask lots of annoying questions and pore over his photography magazines – especially his copies of National Geographic. I have all of his copies and I still read them to this day. I recently told him all this and it was great to see the recognition in his eyes – Thank you dad.

There are a few people to thank (or blame) for my love of Land Rovers – my dad is certainly one of them. He helped me purchase my first car, a 1965 Series IIA Land Rover, at the age of 15. It’s just as well I couldn’t legally drive it for another year as it was going to take that long to make it roadworthy. It literally needed rebuilding from the ground up. He taught me the fundamentals of all the mechanical skills I have today, including the use of power tools when spanners don’t work… He could often be found in the garage or lying on the driveway with me helping to keep me and my Land Rovers in check.

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Dad had a great sense of humour. He had a mischievous nature which would produce acts of silliness, often at what some may deem inappropriate times. This most certainly has been passed on to me – thanks again dad.

He loved music, of all genres, and enjoyed the company of good friends with a beverage or three. I remember being at many a party as a little tacker and falling asleep to Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night. This also sounds very much like a familiar & important part of my own life today.

Dogs, and animals in general, but especially dogs were a big part of my fathers life. In going through literally thousands of photos these last few weeks, dogs as a part of our family life have featured in many of them. I too share that same love thanks to my dad. I have fond memories and photos growing up with Irish Wolf Hounds, Scottish Deer Hounds a donkey, a couple of horses, a cat or two and various other creatures over the years. My own household & family have had a dog from the first day I moved into a house of my own, and my own daughter knows no different either.

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To finish, I would just like to tell you all how much he adored my daughter, his granddaughter Brooklyn. And also how grateful I am that he got to spend the time that he did with her. He often wouldn’t budge from his favourite chair for one of us but would happily get down on the floor to play games with her. I can already see his same mischievous nature coming through in her at two & a half years old. I hope I can be as good a dad to her as he was to me.

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My dad may no longer be with me physically but he sure as hell lives on in my heart.

Goodbye dad, and see you on the other side.”

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