My dad Jim died today. He had advanced emphysema but was still driving two days ago. I found him on the floor of his bedroom so I ran and called 999 and was put on hold!!! No ambulances were available the automatic message said!! I was frantic and rang my mum and sister who live quite near. Then someone materialised on the phone and talked me through CPR. I was still pumping my dad’s chest when I saw him stop breathing. The woman told me to carry on and I was still doing it when the paramedics arrived. My sister was close behind and it was only a little while before one of the team came in and asked us for permission to stop CPR. I knew though that he’d already gone.
As one of my two sisters said, ‘Jim was a rebel all his life’. He was 76 but still played Motorhead at full volume in his car, and he also loved punk. He was from a London Irish family and when I was a small child in South Wales (he married a Welsh girl) I would bring my friends in to listen to his cockney accent which he then exaggerated to make us laugh. He did hard manual labour in a tyre moulding factory and one of his proudest moments was when my grandfather, a miner, mentioned that a colleague of my dad’s had said to him in the pub, ‘that son-in-law of yours works with the heart of a lion.’
My dad detested injustice of all kinds and I credit him with me becoming an activist. Though a quiet man, I saw and heard him express the deepest distress and anger about suffering in the world which, in turn, had a deep impact on me. Racism and every kind of bigotry was beyond the pale for him and, indeed, his entire Irish family. It was by example that I knew these things were wrong from my very earliest years and I am forever grateful to him for that gift. The overarching message we got as kids was that you never, ever oppress anyone weaker or misuse power or strength in any way. On the contrary, you use your strength to lift others up and protect them. And this concern extended to animals for whom my dad had a profound love which he also passed to me.
You don’t have to have lived a life of public achievement to have changed the world. If you always lived with absolute integrity and passed onto your children the same values then you added to the light on this planet and there was less darkness because you were here. And the love you showed your fellow man and all sentient life goes on, like ripples on a lake. Every time I write something that anyone reads and is moved or affected by, that is my dad speaking through me.
Goodbye Jim. Safe journey. And give our dog Sky a lot of hugs until I get there.