Dearest Daddy darling
What a difficult task! You asked that I write your last entry into your journal and I am finding it really difficult. I feel both honoured and intimidated - I don’t think you ever realized how good you were at writing. Now that you are gone, we have all had a good look at your journal and I have marveled at your relationship you had with your words.
You told Wendy that it should only be a short paragraph but I’m afraid it might be longer. You’ll have to forgive me.
Wendy and Clive have assured us that you could hear us during your “sleeps” but just in case you didn’t I’m going to tell you a few things about this last week. It won’t be in date or time order mostly because our experience has not been that linear. It’s been a collection of feelings and thoughts: a Smyth Potjie pot: if you wish.
The first thing that comes to mind is the tangible force of love that has enveloped us – especially Mum. She has had a loving pair of arms to hold and hug her way she turns. The Smyth ring of support has strengthened, and we have all felt it: You told us long ago, as we were growing up, that in order for a family to be successful, there needed to be 3 principles. The first principle - Family Unity - is in full swing. And that became very evident when Chris decided last week that we should all be present at St. Augustine’s when you were going in for your bronchoscopy and to start your cancer treatment. What a sad day that was. I am so grateful that we were all there for each other when we heard the very bad news that your secondary liver cancer was so advanced that treatment was not an option. Since then, it’s just gotten stronger; we have just become better at being our wonderful family.
The second principle: Defense in Depth, happened with no conscious decision. Clive and Dave flew up, your grandchildren decided to make the trip, and before you could say, “I love you”, there was unity and loyalty you’d be proud of.
But it’s the third principle, Mutual Support, that I want you to know about. I have never known this family (any family) to be so supportive. Wendy and Clive are without doubt, the reason why we were able to release you. Clive, being the doctor/son in law, explained that there was no need for any emergency, that we could all be calm. He explained how the body closes down when the time is right, what death looks like, what it sounds like and how we should honour the process and not be afraid of it. It is, after all, the natural order of things. Wendy, through her deeply spiritual nature, and her compassion showed us how to manage this very sad time. And you would have known how she was for you in the way that she treated you. This family is very blessed to have them. In fact, we have all decided that both Wendy and Clive must stay alive until we all go, then we too, can experience the peace that went with you.
One of your greatest features was humour, and I need to tell you how during this profoundly sad time, there were moments of great laughter – the type of laughter where you don’t feel bad or guilty. Like when you woke up on Friday morning thinking that you had died, and how cross you were when you knew you were still alive! And that you were very worried that Doves Funeral Parlour might not be open on a Sat! And what about when you asked Clive if “it” would be a “messy business” – and he replied that it would only be messy if “you jumped off the roof!” And we were all able to take great comfort in that laughter – you know how this family can laugh! You taught us well.
You were very anxious about losing dignity and wanted to be left alone, I know, but as it got closer to the end, the circle around you became gentler yet stronger. Each one of us had special time with you alone, and sometimes together. But I think it helped because there was not one person here who did not belong here. Not one nurse or doctor, not one strange face. In fact, I am quite sure that contributed to your peace – and you did seem very calm and peaceful – were you? Was it ok?
Did you feel the strength of love, the power of prayer, around you?
I want to talk a bit about the presence of a God. Your great friends of 20 years, Norma and Barry came here on Friday evening – Norma said that God had told her to come here. And we all felt God that night. I hope you did too. It’s no coincidence that they were here. Barry is the only person outside of family who is featured on the Wall of Family Fame. The photograph of you and him epitomized the unique friendship you had with him. It was almost as if God sent two angels here to help us (and you) on your way.
Thank you for calling Mum back the second time. The first time you said goodbye to her, it wasn’t time and she wasn’t ready. But when the angels were on their way, you wanted her to be with you and she held you so tight. You will now know how much that meant to her (and us.)
You know that when you took your last deep breath we were all with you. You died at 5.28am - your favourite time of day. No one had left your side since 3.30am (when Mum woke us up, worried because your breathing had changed). And at 5.28am, Wendy was lying next to you; Mum was kneeling at your side, Antony too, and I as well. You would have heard the most beautiful prayer that Antony made, and you would have felt an extraordinary force of love. Cari joined us and by no coincidence at all it was precisely the time that Chris, your first-born, touched down in South Africa from Nigeria – he was with us too. Your lifeblood and family devotion were at its strongest and most powerful.
We lay with you, we held you, we talked to you, and we cried. We were all there. It was just so hard to let you go.
Daddy, you’d have been so proud of us – what a family you and Mum have made. What a family!
And what a man you were.
Chris – First born, son
Wendy and Clive – Daughter and Son in Law
Cari – Daughter
Antony – Last born, son
Sandy and Dave – Writer of the letter, daughter, and Son in Law