Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

“When a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.” – Kurt Vonnegut

These are Kurt Vonnegut’s words, he was the writer who inspired Dad the most.

Dad lives on, in his writing, and in the characters he’s created. Whether this is Spider, the arachnophobic droid from Anomaly, or Jenny Parker, the sharp-toothed money launderer from the Due Diligence series.

Dad put a lot of himself into these publications, and he also put a lot of us in there too. You’ll find the names of his family and friends throughout. He used our characters and our situations but he turned us on our heads; altered us into more interesting versions of ourselves, and sometimes mixed with the traits of others.

With characteristic irony, he called one of his most honest pieces of writing, ‘Small Thoughts.’ He wrote about a boy who used to hide in his safe place, behind a shed on The Garret, coming out only to be with his brothers and sister, whom he counted amongst his best friends.

So it turns out that Vonnegut wasn’t his greatest inspiration; we were.

Dad wasn’t always a writer. Looking through one of his journals recently, I was stuck with just how rich and varied his life was. Next to some notes from a board meeting, he’d penned a poem, then on the next page a list of actions to lobby Westminster on environmental issues, then on the next a list of potential character names and alternative titles for his latest book.

He did many things with his life:

He was a student: armed with a photographic memory he was admitted to Oxford but couldn’t go because he was underage – he went to Birmingham instead.

He was a chemist: learning that the world took a dim view of spontaneously combusting school desks, he found a career restricting himself to trying to stop whole chemical plants from exploding.

He worked in waste disposal: he once cleared out a toxic element from Liverpool’s Anfield ground. He probably would have liked to do the same at United.

He was a businessman: his clients and colleagues tended to become lifelong friends.

He was involved in motor racing: he met many interesting characters, many of which made it into his books, only with the names changed to protect the guilty.

He was a mentor. He helped so many of us, with humour, with insight, and with patience. He helped me become a writer, he helped so many. He encouraged but never patronised. When I showed him some terrible scribblings, he’d say, ‘keep going.’ He kept saying that, right up until I showed him something worth publishing. About ten years later.

He was an environmentalist: supporting the local green party and fighting for the little guy, especially the bees.

Amongst his last words to me were, ‘goodnight, lovely son,’ and ‘just give me my effing water.’ I remember both with equal fondness.

Towards the end Dad was fighting his own fight. He did this with dignity, and of course, humour. Always humour. He was a master of irony and mischief. He had a very expansive view of life and a boundless optimism about it.

Amongst his last words to me were, ‘goodnight, lovely son,’ and ‘just give me my effing water.’ I remember both with equal fondness.

When approached by a nurse in the oncology unit at St James’ who asked if he was all right, he replied with a smile, ‘no,’ he said, ‘I have cancer.’ His humour was refreshing, and disarming, and it had truth and meaning that was always close to the point but softened because of his warmth.

He’d come back to earth gently, he’d squeeze my hand and then he’d launch himself back into a new adventure.

He left us only when he knew we were safe and prepared, when he knew we were able to look after each other, when we had all properly said goodbye to him. When we had told him it was okay to leave us.

For the last few weeks he drifted in and out of his dreams, surrounded by loving family and friends. He would have been able to think and reflect on a satisfying life where he meant so much to so many of us.

During this time he had a foot in each world. He became untethered from time.

It was a release that made him a cosmic time traveller. He’d come back to earth gently, he’d squeeze my hand and then he’d launch himself back into a new adventure.

Look on the bright side. Dad has now travelled far enough away so that from this distance, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

So it goes.

4 thoughts on “Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt

  1. healy Helen(Adrian's sister)

    What a beautiful send off for your dad and it sounds like he went peacefully after wishing you all farewell. I last saw him at Chris and Mish’s wedding. He was philosophical about his condition so I guess he got a few good years to put his life into some sort of order. He’ll be missed by all of you. He was certainly a character. Sending sincere thoughts to Anne Marie and all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

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