Little Things

It’s all about the little things.

My dad died almost a fortnight ago when he lost his footing during a climb in the Lake District, and – since then – it’s felt like I’ve been involuntarily transplanted out of my life and into somebody else’s. I’ve only been in and out of work, and I’m glad to have done that: it’s added a semblance of normality to my routine. But most of my “new life” seems to consist of picking up the pieces of the jigsaw of my dad’s affairs and piecing them together into a meaningful picture.

An endless outpouring of sympathy cards adorn shelf after shelf in my dad’s house.

The big stuff is easy. Or, at least, it’s easy thanks to the support of my sisters and my mum. The big stuff isn’t small, of course, and it takes a significant effort to make sure it’s handled correctly: arranging a funeral and a wake, pouring over the mountains of paperwork in my dad’s files, and discussing what’s to ultimately be done with his house… those are all big things.

But the small things: they’re tough. The little things that sneak up on you when you least expect it. Last night, Becky and I were watching television when an advertisement came on.

We were both trying to work out what it was an advertisement for – perhaps some kind of holiday company? – as we watched a scene of a family (father, mother, and two teenage daughters) packing their bags and moving them into the hallway. The kids squeezed past their dad on the stairs and hugged their mother: “It won’t be the same, without dad,” said one.

The commercial was for life insurance, and it pulled a Sixth Sense (spoiler: Bruce Willis is dead the entire time) on us – the girls’ father wasn’t there at all.

That we happened to see that advertisement was a little thing, in the scale of things. But it’s the little things that are the hard ones.

Funeral’s tomorrow. I’d better finish writing this eulogy.

5 replies to Little Things

  1. The little things never go away, but they get easier slowly.

    For me, it’s hearing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, which he used to sing wandering around the house, and the strawberry on my foot, and the anniversaries. They get easier with each year.

    Which reminds me, today is four years exactly. Huh.

  2. My thoughts are with you today. I won’t phone or text you in case your phone is left on and you are busy. Plesae know that we love you and are thinking of you.
    xxx

  3. Friday was the day of my dad’s funeral. If you’ve just tuned in, you might like to see my blog post about his death, and a second article about the things that have been hardest, so far, in its aftermath. I’m not inclined to say too much, so I’ll be brief and let pictures, and a video, tell the story. As usual, you’ll find that you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.
    A convoy of buses arrive to deliver attendees to the funeral.A remarkable number of people turned up to mark my dad’s passing on this sad occasion. I was genuinely surprised to see how many lives he’d touched (and to hear about a great many more from people who couldn’t make it). About 350 people struggled to fit in to the cramped crematorium, and many had to stand outside where – thankfully – there were repeater speakers.
    The buses with digital display boards, provided by Stagecoach, had been reprogrammed to show my dad’s name and years of life.My sisters and I were determined that this event would be a celebration of our father’s life. So rather than focusing on his tragic and premature death, we made every effort to commemorate his achievements and reinforce the lessons that we can all learn from his time with us. In a similar vein, we’d told everybody that we had the chance to that there was no need to wear black for this funeral: that people should wear what’s appropriate to them for their personal act of mourning and remembrance.
    In memory of my dad, I wore his old-style bus driver’s license badge, as well as wearing both socks and sandals together, as he often would.We’d hired a former minister, Ken Howles, to provide a (thoroughly secular, under threat of non-payment!) framework for the service, but we “rolled our own” so far as possible. Seven individual tributes and eulogies were given by people representing different aspects of my dad’s life: from my mother, from his partner, from the friend with whom he was walking on the day he died, from the managing directors of the company he founded and the company he last worked for, from the chief executive of the charity he was fundraising for, and – finally – from me.

    (if you can’t view the YouTube video above, or if you want to share it with others, you can also view it on YouTube)
    The contrast between the different tributes was stark and staggering, reflecting the huge variety in the different facets of my father’s life. From guerrilla gardening to trainspotting, lessons learned to tyres pulled, we collectively painted a picture of the spectrum of my dad’s life. The tributes given were, in order:

    My mother, Doreen (watch), who talked about their adventures together as young adults and the roots of his career in transport
    His partner, Jenny (watch), who shared the experiences they’d had together, and mourned for those that they would not
    His friend, John (watch), who let us in on the things that they’d talked about during my dad’s final hours
    Adrian, the managing director of the company my dad founded (watch), on his success in the world of transport consultancy, and working with him
    A break in the middle to watch a video of my dad singing karaoke

    A picture of the “Celebration of Life” order of service that we distributed at the funeral. Click on the picture to download the original (which includes a list of some of the charities my dad supported) as a PDF.

    Kevin, the managing director of Go North-East (watch), on the subject of my dad’s recent career and influence on British transport
    Gary, chief executive of TransAid (watch), announced the future creation of the Peter Huntley Fundraising Award, and thanked my dad and his supporters on behalf of the dozens of charities my dad helped
    And finally, me (watch), contrasting all of the above by talking about what my dad was like as a father and a friend, and the lessons we can learn from him
    If you can’t watch YouTube where you are, you can also read the full text of my personal eulogy here.
    JTA serves butter pie, mushy peas, and hotpot – classic Lancashire comfort foods – to guests at the wake.Afterwards, we held a wake at Grimsargh Village Hall which, on account of the sheer number of bus industry attendees, rapidly became a micro-conference for the public transport sector! It was great to have the chance to chat to so many people who’d worked with my dad in so many different contexts.
    Mourners gather near the (convenient!) bar at Grimsargh Village Hall. I’ve decided: all wakes should have a bar.Between hot food provided by a local caterer, cold savories courtesy of Jenny’s daugher Eppie, and a copious quantity of cakes baked by Ruth, there was an incredible superfluity of food. These two, plus JTA, Paul, and Eppie’s boyfriend James, provided a spectacular level of “behind-the-scenes” magic, keeping everything running smoothly and ensuring that everything happened as and when it was supposed to.
    Among other things, Ruth baked biscuits in the shape of buses, decorated in the colours of the different routes that my dad rebranded during his time at Go North-East.We set up a “memory book”, in which people could write their recollections of my dad. I haven’t had time to read much of it yet, but one of them stands out already to me as a concise and simple explanation of what we achieved at the crematorium that day. It reads:
    “Great funeral, Peter. Sorry that you missed it.”
    It was certainly a great send-off for a man who did so much for so many people. Thank you so much to everybody who made it such a success, and to everybody who, in the meantime, has donated to TransAid via my dad’s JustGiving page (or by giving us cash or cheques at or after the funeral). You’re helping his memory live on, for everybody: thank you.
    My dad didn’t teach me to drive. But he did teach me to read a bus timetable. Thanks, dad. I love you.

  4. My father hasn’t passed, but he has disowned me and I do feel a sense of loss when I see things like you were describing on the television. You’re right that it is the little things that sort of catch you. At least, I feel that’s true for my experience. I don’t know if I know exactly what you’re going through, but I hope you feel better soon.

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