Bereavement doesn’t go – it changes shape. That’s a statement I heard a few years back that makes total sense to me now.

By one of the NutNav Community – March 2020

This year marks 12 years since the death of my dad. I sit here now writing this and glance over to the right my of desk at a photo I took of him sitting in our old house back in the 1990’s.  A typical view of him for me. Sun shining through the window, sitting down, beer at the ready and smiling. I’m writing this in the hope I can jar my emotions alive because I’ve blocked him out since he died. Every now and then I’ll get a moment where I think I can still call him up, chat about Spurs, take the piss out of Arsenal and have a good ‘craic’ as he used to call it. (Yep, Dad was Irish)

Dad died in July 2008 but in my heart he was taken from me by a woeful so called therapist back in 2002.  Dad came to the UK from Ireland in the 60’s – worked hard and did everything he could to provide for us as a family. Sadly he was orphaned age 7 and naturally, I guess in someways that may had hindered his ability to be the full on father we needed him to be BUT for me that made him more the hero. Dad gave it his best shot.

The fact that he went through so much trauma and heartache and still managed to smile, often sighting phrases such as ‘Always look on the bright side of life’  (a sentiment that is written on his gravestone) made him a legend in my eyes. My mates loved him to bits too, we’d often all sit around laughing and joking together, truly amazing times! Dad was like my best mate and life’s sparring partner, whenever I was struggling in my teenage years or early 20’s he could lift my spirit to the sky in just a few short words.

The fact he’d been through what he’d been through and still kept a positive vibe meant I’d hang on every word…I could never be depressed around dad, he’s charismatic energy and zest for life was a potent shot in the arm anytime I needed it.

Tottenham Hotspur – the glue that bonded us.

My childhood of the 80’s was typical to what they portray in modern day takes, many hours on adventures with my mates, BMX’s, arcades, Star Wars, hours on the Atari, ZX Spectrum, Amiga. Hanging out in shopping centers and getting up to no good. I didn’t have a bond with my dad back then, he was like an enigma in many ways. My earliest memories of him are him singing Tottenham songs and driving me past the stadium with the promise of taking me there one day.

That day came on 24th January 1987 – Spurs vs Aston Villa. It was a bright and sharp afternoon – Dad worked as a mechanic at Peugeot in Holloway Road North London (Home of Arsenal!) and arranged to meet me at 2pm outside the Spurs shop on the corner of Park Lane. I was buzzing, I’d just gotten into football after the previous summer of Mexico 86. In we went to watch Hoddle, Waddle and the rest run out 3-0 winners.

This was it, we now had something we could connect on. For years after, we’d regularly go to ‘The Lane’, conversations in our house were based around Spurs. He’d often share memories with me of his visit’s in the 60’s to watch Greavsie and co.

As time moved on into the 90’s, we stopped going to games but we’d still often go to the pub to watch a match or get some beers in around Deansway (our old house) with a few mates to watch the games.

I didn’t realise it at the time but the 9o’s were my golden years in terms of my mind set – I was pumped for living back then, yes I had crap to deal with BUT much like my dad, I’d smile through it all and genuinely loved life. That all changed in November 2000 when I crashed into a dark depression (will cover that another time).

After the bad therapy of 2002, dad was completely rubbished and I was indirectly encouraged to point fingers at him, my years of bonding with him through football were now just some kind of pathalogical falsehood connection and he was to blame for all of these made up woes.

Looking back, dad was thrown by it all, none of made sense to him. That connection that was so strong was now completely severed. I stopped visiting him, didn’t return all of his calls and became a stranger to him. That began in 2002, 6 years later he passed away at the North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton, North London.

I still remember getting a phone call from my wife whilst I was out doing a leaflet drop to promote my business. ‘You need to ring your mum….LIKE NOW’.

Mum picks up, “Dad’s collapsed over the wheel of his car in Church Street opposite the fire station, ambulance has taken him to the hospital” – I rush to hospital and dad is sitting up in a hospital bed with a drip in his arm, acting almost child like. They nurses begin asking him questions, name, D.O.B etc and he starts having a laugh with them.

With my mind still spinning in confusion many years after the bad therapy, I’m struggling to make sense of it all. I was lost in thought when I looked up and dad gave me this look of pure love. He’s eyes seemed bright, almost like he’s barriers he had up all his life were taken away. It was like he was saying ‘it’s ok son, we’re ok’. That was the look I guess I was searching for as a kid, and I got it.

Never for one moment did I think this was the end. Dad was admitted mid-week to the hospital. I visited him everyday for the rest of the week. I didn’t get to visit him at the weekend but then on Monday 28th July 2008 I knew I had to visit him again.

I went into the ward and his bed was empty, I asked the duty nurse where he was and after giving his name they told me he had been moved into the main block ‘Hope Ward’.

I rushed to the main block as quick as I could, walked in to the ward and see my dad sitting upright in a chair, staring out of the window into the sunset, ironically and I guess fittingly, White Hart Lane was in full view.

I asked him how he was, he was very groggy and tired BUT the only one on the ward out of bed. I was numb and unable to process any of this. As visiting time came to a close, with the sun setting I asked a male nurse to help me lift dad back into bed. I kissed dad on the forehead, told him I loved him and made my way to the exit, glancing over my shoulder at him. That was the last time I see dad alive….

I drove my work van back to Enfield where I now lived, had a bath, said prayer and went to sleep. At 2am I heard the buzzing of my mobile phone I had at my bedside, I looked and it said ‘mum’.

I picked up ‘We need to go to the hospital, dad’s taken a turn for the worse”. The previous evening I’d seen dad it had been hot and sunny. As I left my flat to get to my work van it was chucking down. I drove to Edmonton, Deansway to pick mum up and get to the hospital. I dropped mum off by the main entrance and went to park the van. Due to restrictions I couldn’t park in the grounds so I found a spot outside. As I ran back into the grounds, rain was lashing down and for some reason I stopped, and looked up. I still remember as I looked up a tall lampost to my left was lighting up the large rain drops as that splashed in my face.

At that moment a voice went ‘dad’s gone’.

I carried on to the entrance to mum and we both headed up to Hope Ward. We were greeted by the night staff. An Indian male nurse sat us both down in his office.

At 1AM this morning we were running our routine checks on the patience and your dad was non responsive, we did everything we could to revive him but I’m sorry to say there was nothing we could do.

That was it, dad was gone, I was already numb through the depression but hearing this didn’t add up. He asked if we wanted to see him and my mum agreed. I said I didn’t want to. My mum left and the nurse said “I know it’s hard, I lost my father a few years ago and saying goodbye for the last time helped me, it might help you”

I took heed and made my way over to dad’s bed which was now closed off behind a curtain. I pulled back the curtain and there he was, lifeless. I yelled out and hugged him, his warm glow was gone, dad was gone. I remember feeling his forehead and how stone cold it was. Seeing dad’s lifeless body pierced through the layers of depression and hit me hard.

I can’t remember what I said to him as he lay there, but it was though streams of tears and dribbles of snot – a right old mess!

I called into work to announce what happened and told them I can’t make it in. I remember heading back home Enfield and sinking a few beers that were left in the fridge and meant to be for the weekend.

As I crawled back into bed, I dosed off pretty quick. It was like a groundhog day moment as the phone started ringing again – “Dad is that you! Yeah it’s me (in his Irish accent) just letting ye know I’m awight” “Where are you dad???? , No No No I can’t say, just to let ye know I’m good, love ya, speak soon’.

Boooom, I then woke up! Freaky but it felt SO real!

That was 2008. It’s now 2020, the years have passed. I don’t visit dad’s grave as often as I used to as I know he would want me to move on in life. Writing this is painful BUT it’s helping me, every now and then it all comes back

Bereavement is a strange thing yet something we all have to face at some point in our lives. I used to search for dad at Tottenham, going to the games post him passing just didn’t feel the same. It all felt empty, White Hart Lane was once me and dad’s playground. Going back it’s not the same, dad isn’t sitting next to me and I don’t get the phone calls anymore after Spurs have played, or the cheeky pint in the pub, those are the little things I miss more than anything.

So my message to you is this, in my experience, bereavement doens’t leave you, it just changes shape and eventually forms into something where you can live your life again and cherish the good times instead of grieving over what you lost.




James is a regular contributor to NutNav - He's looking to share his experiences in the hope it will help others.

Let us know your thoughts!

Skip to toolbar