I woke up to the sound of light rain falling on the roof. I say wake up but I hadn’t been asleep for hours. Perhaps I just became aware of the rain as my mind started to focus on the day ahead. Out of bed I got, wrapped my dressing gown tight across my body and walked to the kitchen. Looking out the window it was still raining, a little heavier now. A little steadier. No sunshine at all. A very dreary, gloomy winter’s day.
I opened the back door and went outside. I knew it was cold due to the hot air coming from my every breath but I didn’t really feel it. As I walked the very short distance up the driveway to retrieve the morning paper, my feet without slippers or shoes felt icy on the pavers. I didn’t care. I always said I was a winter’s girl. Love the cold. Hate the heat. True – well, most of the time. Give me open fires, scarves, and coats, over hot sweaty days in front of air conditioners.
It had been my 50th birthday the day before, a Thursday. But no party was I recovering from. There had been no indulging of fancy champagne. Today was the big day for me. Today was unplanned. What was happening today had come as a total surprise.
With my stomach a little in knots with nerves and anticipation I went over the speech I had prepared for today’s gathering. I couldn’t sit down to do this, I had to stand, walk, pace, and watch myself in a mirror saying the words. It was important to get this speech just right and I felt more than a little pressure. The speech had been finished for a day now and I was very proud of myself being able to get through such heartfelt sentiments, only stumbling once. Always at the same spot. Always when I got to share the love my boys had brought us all. I made a mental note to take a long pause and a big breath at the beginning of this sentence and marked the spot with a big blue X.
The rest of the house soon started to wake. My boys 19 and 15 years of age, who were much more comfortable in jeans and hoodies, put on their smartest shirt and trousers. They looked a treat. I was so proud. My husband in a suit looked very handsome. I didn’t have a new outfit to wear. A beautiful blue coat – up to then not worn nearly enough for what it cost – was what I decided to wear at the last minute. My Dad always commented how nice I looked when I wore blue and if your Dad says it…..well it must be true.
My little family of four, ready in record time got into the car. I am the, “always 10 minutes early to any occasion” person, so inevitably I am always waiting for someone to be ready but not today. I noticed and appreciated this effort being made for me.
Our destination, surrounded by the most beautiful gardens, was only 10 minutes from where we lived. No one spoke much on that short drive. I remember looking out the window and noticing that the sun had finally made an appearance. Parts of the road glistened as the suns’ rays reflected off the puddles left from the morning rain and the dark skies had disappeared. The heater cranked to 3 in the car the obvious giveaway that it was, in fact, the middle of winter.
As we parked the car and started to walk across the gardens a few family friends had also arrived early. It was lovely to see their faces. We hadn’t seen them in quite some time and they were sincere in wishing that hadn’t been the case.
I walked a little ahead as we entered the venue. Not yet ready to greet everyone I went into the bathroom and reapplied my lipstick. Every person I held dear was going to be here today. My entire, close and extended family – Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and then my very dearest friends. Lovely to have all the people you love in one spot at the same time. And it only really happens at special birthdays, christenings, weddings and funerals.
Sadly today was a funeral.
Today was not celebrating my milestone birthday.
Today we had all gathered to say goodbye to my Dad.
I chose not to join my family in seeing Dad one last time before we all entered the chapel. Instead, while they said a personal goodbye, I went into the reception room – empty for now but where we would all gather after the service to drink tea, share memories. I went to the furthest corner of that room and struggling to retain my composure at where I was and why – I looked out the window. The sun was still shining and I really thought Dad was having a hand in that. I was his girl and it was a family joke that I had never had a birthday where it hadn’t rained. Not ever. Yes, I was born slap bang in the middle of winter so that’s kind of a given………….but maybe Dad was thinking give a girl a break today. Whatever, I found it comforting. To see the sun was a tiny glimmer of positivity on this very sad winter’s day.
In a chapel that was full to the brim, Dad would have been chuffed and surprised at the turnout, we gave a fitting send-off for the much-adored man he was. There was no stumbling reading my speech, his eulogy, and the day went exactly how we had planned. He would have been so proud of us all.
With just my brother, and a handful of those closest to us we went back to my Mum and Dad’s house for a late lunch. No one really felt like eating, least of all me. I felt emotionally spent and just wanted to go to my own home and be alone with a big glass of wine and my thoughts. But for a few hours, we processed the details of the funeral and also the horrific preceding week which saw Dad have a sore throat on a Thursday to then shockingly die on the Sunday morning. That can happen when Leukemia turns acute. Swift, heartbreaking and devastating.
Eventually, we left Mum in the very capable hands of my brother and drove home. Literally, as we got out of her driveway the heavens opened and it bucketed down. Relentless, “windscreen wipers on full” type of rain. Again I felt it was another sign from Dad. The sun had shone most of the day, it had helped my mood ever so slightly and because I felt that was a sign from Dad it was calming. But now – my job was done. And the weather was reflecting how I was feeling. I hung on to my emotions till I got out the car and in the privacy of my bedroom had the “breakdown of tears” I had been storing for over a week. I didn’t need to hold it all in anymore. I didn’t have to hang on for another day. My feelings of grief, disbelief, shock, and anger exploded into sobs as loud as the rain echoing on the iron roof.
It had been the worst day of my life.
It has been four, long years since that day and do you know it has not rained on that day once. It’s a winter’s day I dread so I think Dad continues to send the sun. And, I like to think he is doing that – just for me.