February 10th means a lot of things to different people. As a history graduate, I tend to think in terms of historic periods. For those who studied the Middle Ages, February 10th 1098 is when the Crusaders took Antioch. Military historians will tell you February 10th 1916 is when Conscription began in Britain. February 10th 1964 is the day Dylan released the Times they are a-Changing. But for me, 10th February will always be the day my Dad died. It was one year ago today. He passed away peacefully in the brilliant Marie Curie Hospice surrounded by family and friends. He had fought cancer for 8 months. If he was a politician, celebrity, business leader, literary, musical, or artistic giant, then he would have got an obituary in the broadsheets. But he was none of those things. He was just an ordinary working class hero, like millions of others.
One thing I often think about from my childhood is Dad’s sandpaper-rough hands, made rugged from hard work. My earliest memory of him was him taking my hand in his, as he led me to meet my new-born brother, and then immediately bribing me with a Mr Men jigsaw to stop the onset of a tantrum. From those earliest days, he took my hand in his and we discovered the world together. As my dad neared death, I put my hand in his one final time. I wanted him to know that I was with him on his final journey on Earth, as he had been with me on so many of my first journeys. As he lay dying in a hospice bed, my last words to him echoed a lifetime of his actions to me.”I love you.” The words were spoken just minutes before his death, a beautiful and a complete ending to a great relationship. The loss of my dad, whilst painful, has been strangely reaffirming because it has made me ever more aware of what a wonderful man he was. As I think about him today, I realise the legacy he left me – a curiosity about life, a hunger for knowledge, a passion for social justice, an example of a life whose riches owe little to money, a sense that anything is possible if you work hard, a model of what a father should be. Dad will always remain to me the man I hope someday to become. His was a life worth emulating: a life of great love and generosity, a life of care to others, a life of simple joys.