Everybody hurts

imageAlexander McQueen, or Lee as he was known to friends and family, was a public relations genius in fashion industry terms. His ability to demand attention and court controversy with his remarkable designs was underpinned by real talent and solid skills in both tailoring and imagination.

Undoubtedly, McQueen’s success was in part due to to the love and support of his mother, Joyce, whose death on 2 February (following that of his beloved Aunt Dolly last year) seems to have been the trigger for his suicide.

We often hear about dysfunctional parents and those who epitomise the famous poem of Philip Larkin. But rarely do we celebrate the importance of having loving parents – or discuss the pain that is felt when you lose them.

Many children are bereaved of parents at a young age – from the Princes William and Harry, to those orphaned in Haiti or the unwitting victims of the war in Afghanistan. Then there are the many private tragedies, with children who have to cope with the loss of a mother or father due to illness or accident. Charities such as Winston’s Wish offer support for hurting families.

As adults, we know our parents cannot live forever – but as they have been a constant in our lives, and the source of so much that is essential to ourselves, we never want to face the fact of their death.

It is two years since my father was in hospital for a supposedly routine operation, which didn’t turn out well. My dad’s death hit me hard and I feel it made me slightly mad for many months.

In Human Traces, Sebastian Faulkes writes a sentence about a character getting too close to death – which echoed with how I was experiencing bereavement. It hurt – and still does.

Death is something that we are all likely to face, but not something we seem to be prepared for. The five stages of grief, identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) resonated with me – and gave me hope of light at the end of the tunnel.

For many people losing a parent can be a spur to living a successful life. It gives you a sense of drive – of trying to make someone proud or achieving things for them. I feel like that in terms of working towards my PhD – my dad was proud of me no matter what, but I know how much it would have meant to him for me to become a “doctor”.

But I also empathise with death being too much to bear – and I feel so sad for Lee McQueen who seems to have been unable to face his mother’s funeral and life beyond.

Things do get better – you don’t forget, and the pain, and memories are there every day. But it is the role of a good parent to fill you up with good things, love and support. They should give you the momentum to carry on – confident that you will never forget the lessons they shared, the things they did and the way they were.

My father loved a good moan – and I can imagine what he would have said about things in the news; I do miss his intelligent insight. And, I hear him complaining that Dancing on Ice is dangerous and American Idol contestants deserve every insult that Simon Cowell bestows.

He would be so proud of how my mum has coped and grown by learning to do the many things that she relied on him to do. He missed out on technology like the iPhone, which he would have adored – and Skype (he would be amazed to see my mum using it as she didn’t even know how to switch on a computer as that was his passion).

I gave him my iPod when he went into hospital as he loved music – particularly Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing What a Wonderful World – whose lyrics help because although everybody hurts sometime, there are many things that make life worth living:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces, of people going by
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’ “how do you do?”
They’re really sayin’ “I love you”
I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself, what a wonderful world

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8 thoughts on “Everybody hurts

  1. Beautiful blog Heather. I have a close friend whose youngest son died suddenly last year, a week before his 14th birthday, who I’m going to forward this on to.

    I’m sure your dad would be very proud of you too x

  2. Alexander McQueen is one of my heroes. He was an outrageous Queen from East London, son of a taxi driver. His life showed how classless and liberal society can be when it finds a rare talent in its midst. He displayed as much guts in his designs and dealings with the fashion world’s elite as he must have done when he faced-down the playground bullies of his youth. In my book, he’s up there alongside Ian Dury as a modern lost national treasure.

  3. Thank you Heather. Your blog really inspired me and I really understand how difficult it must have been and still is to lose a parent. I guess you learn to live with it. However, I believe you will manage everything you hoped for and your father would be proud of you. You are an inspiration to all women with your never ending strength and persistence.

  4. Heather, your blogs are always interesting to read and this one is definitely no exception. At first I was stumbled across it because of Alexander McQueen, but reading about you father and particularly his comments on Dancing on Ice and American Idol made me smile. A very inspiring and honest blog…keep up the great work.

  5. I’ve found that “silver surfers” love Skype as it is easy to use and helps them keep in touch with their younger relatives in a way that is much better than email or text since you can hear, and see, each other. My little niece who is three, is now asking to speak to Nanny France (as she calls my mum) via Skype. Makes you wonder what kind of world they will live in when such technology is such a part of their young lives.

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