I have always been confused about the precise date that my father passed away, primarily because I only learned about it the next day. I was away in holiday in Wales at the time.
But it was 11th October 1986, in the afternoon. Twenty-four years later, it is time for a modest tribute to my father from his son. Obituaries tend to be full of the curriculum vitae items, but I recall a more personal tribute that I wrote for the local paper. It’s lurking on an old floppy disk somewhere, I think, and I must dig it out.
JPJB was, simply, the kindest of men. I would dread seeing a boat broken down, or a car broken down, because he would see it as his duty to stop and offer assistance. He would go out of his way to help anyone, even when that person was not appreciative of his efforts. Sometimes that would lead people to lean on him too heavily, so that the burden was too great for him. He often looked pained, perhaps reflecting a sadness that he was not always understood, or that he was taken for a ride. It has been hard to live up to his example, hard to try not to feel compassion. But that is the main impression of him that has lasted for 24 years. The rest is memory; there is much to recall, events and scenes, but feelings are much more difficult.
Last week someone who did not know me phoned me and asked if my father was still alive; it seemed an astonishing question after such a long time. Mum recalled last year someone telling her what a wonderful person he was, long after he left us. And more recently a mutual friend recalled a small detail about him that I had not known. We never reach the final point of recovery, when there is nothing more to know about a person.
He is still much missed, and often quietly mourned. The world still seems a strange place without him, somehow incomplete. And yet if he was here, the world would seem stranger still, as so much has changed. He made a major impact.