Two weeks ago I buried my father. It was a gut wrenching and awful lead up to his death. Joseph Murray Cooper died 5 months shy of turning 90 years old.
My dad was larger than life. A cracking, loud laughing, charming, death-defying, adrenaline junkie. A jockey, boxer and speed boat racer.
It was hard to see him shrivelled and tiny in the intensive care unit. Struggling for every breath. While we waited basically for him to starve to death. Palliative and with notes to not take any heroic measures, his heart beat on whilst we waited for his body to stop. It was gruelling and grievous. Surely there is a better way to die.
Whilst death is a natural process and 90 is a good age to die. You are not prepared for all the memories that you have to process. Whilst your loved one is dying, you are reliving the pain and the joy of fractured and broken relationships. Sharing small hospital rooms with ex-spouses, ex-step brothers and sisters and total strangers that your father did life with after his life stopped with yours.
It is in times like these when I realise how big, elastic and encompassing love is. We want to clutch love to our hearts and keep it to ourselves, but love has wings big enough to encompass everyone if you allow it too.
My father was a hero to many people.
It’s not easy to share your dad. It’s easier to blame and to point to faults and relationship cracks. If you are able, the pain lessens its grip on your soul when you allow others into your heart and give permission for others own him and call him their own.
Together we prepared his memorial service. Two wives, four children, five step children and too many grandchildren and great-grandchildren to count. All wept over his loss, all spoke of the way that he had changed their lives.
Dad was the father who looked not only after his own children and grandchildren in the best way that he knew how, but he also had room in his heart for his step daughters their families.
Along with many others who needed his strength. He passed on the same sense of inclusion, humour and hospitality that he had learned in his own life’s journeys.
Dad made it through life because he was not afraid to share his love.
Born into the slums of Fitzroy in the depression of the 1930’s. Within the space of two and a half years, Dad lost both his parents. At 2 1/2 he was given to another family to raise and was left with a note pinned to his chest. He was 21 before he realised that this family was not his birth family.
Dad was the quintessential Aussie battler and to honour him we played the John Williamson song ‘True Blue’ at his funeral.
Hey True Blue, don’t say you’ve gone
Say you’ve knocked off for a smoko
And you’ll be back la-ater on
Hey True Blue, Hey True Blue
These were some of the words that I read at his funeral:
We cannot foresee the trials and misfortunes that will test us along the way. We cannot know what Gods plan is for us. What we can do is to live out our life’s as best we can with purpose and with love and with joy.
We can use each day to show those closest to us how much they mean to us and as the old proverb says, to treat each other the way that we wish to be treated.
Dad was a humble man and would always admit his mistakes. We, like Joe, can learn from our mistakes and rise out of suffering to make a new start. To strive at all costs to make a better world for our children and grandchildren to live in.
We do not weep for him today because of an unused life.
Dad lived every minute to the full. Squeezing out the marrow of every moment.
“As you know so well, the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of such a great loss. But we carry on because he would have wanted us to and because his love still offers light to guide us in this world”.