A private tragedy

“This was not the plan; it was not supposed to be like this” my dad said when he went into hospital on 3 February.  He loved the life that he had with my mum in France, but despite fighting complication after complication following a supposedly routine operation to remove a tumour from his colon, he died at 3.10am on Monday, 21 April, 2008.

Last week, the plan was that he could possibly go home this week, so I’d travelled out on Saturday, not expecting to be told there was no hope.  His death was our private tragedy, as mum and I spent the last precious hours, playing special songs, and just giving my dad every last ounce of love.  In return, he did his best to keep his heart beating until he simply couldn’t suck any more life into his lungs.

It is an honour to share someone’s final moments – and the nurses bestowed respect and dignity.  They deal with such private tragedies every day – on Saturday a young couple had lost their baby at the 6th month of pregnancy and been told they could not have more children.  Another heart-breaking life story.  My mum and the baby’s father had held each other and cried together.

You won’t read about our stories in the news – my dad was not famous, did not make history, was not involved in a public tragedy worthy of reporting.  There’s no press release, no questions to answer – except the biggest of all – why?

But there are many people who have wept since hearing that Richard Liddiment has died.  The church bells are ringing in Roquefeuil, the tiny village where my parents have lived for the last six years.  This is a French honour, for a true English gentleman.  The villagers asked if they could start a book to pay their respects, and within minutes, so many had expressed their sorrow.  They did not share a common language, but my parents were taken to heart. 

My dad was a quiet man, a kind man.  A man who has passed with a light soul – because he has left so many people with a good feeling when they think of him.  Many happy memories and laughter.

My parents had been together since they were fifteen, over fifty years ago.  We had a perfect childhood and were so loved.  We wanted to be like him, my brother and I.  And, we were not alone in looking up to him, idolising him – I can see him also in Winston and Rick.  Young men who will carry forward a legacy of my father.

Everywhere I look, I feel my dad’s presence – in the millions of little things he did for me, in my manner, my skills, my outlook on life.  These are ripples in the pond of life.

When we left the hospital, nurses cried and hugged my mum as if their own father had died.  They had seen how much he was loved and how he fought so hard to live – they came to love him too. 

I’ll miss him so much – je suis désolé

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

16 thoughts on “A private tragedy”

  1. Hi Heather –

    I haven’t commented on your blog before – but have been reading it for a long time now, and reading the updates on your father.

    I wish to send my condolences to you and your family. It sounds as though you’ve had a pretty rough ride over the last few months, hopefully things start to get a bit better.

    All the best,

  2. I’m sorry to hear for your loss, but from your description it sounds like your father was a great man and well loved – I hope you all have plenty of fond memories of him that you can remember him by.

    All the best,


  3. Really sorry to hear your news, Heather. A beautifully written post for someone who sounds like he was a great man, and one fortunate enough to be surrounded by great family.
    My thoughts are with you and your family. I hope you can all find more than a few smiles among the tears.

  4. Heather, I was so hoping the outcome would be different for you and yours. As we’ve discussed offline, sometimes life seems like a big crap wheel of good or bad fortune, with absolutely no reason, rhyme or sense of fairness.

    I know you did everything within your power over the past 11 weeks for your family, including research, frequent phone conversations and physically travelling to France several times to be with your dad (and mum).

    I also think another great gift to your dad (and to us, your readers) is how you’ve told various parts of your dad’s “story” over the past year, introducing us to some of his photographs, interests and sense of humour, as well as how his fatherly influence has impacted you (i.e., playing a part in the resulting exceptional practitioner and teacher you are). This makes Greenbanana more than a great blog about public relations; now it is also a part of an online legacy and tribute to Richard Liddiment. I suspect your dad was one of your greatest (if not the greatest) blog fans and that this particular blog post would give him immense (if quiet) pleasure.

    My deepest condolences,

  5. Heather,

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You wrote a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your memories and his story with us. It’s a very personal and courageous thing to do.

    All the best,

  6. Like Lou, I’ve never commented on your blog, but I really admire the way you can articulate your love for obviously a very wise and giving man. My thoughts go to you and your mum.

  7. Heather
    A poignant and true tribute to your late Dad and to your Mother ;it moved me.
    Linda ,I and our friends in the L’Herault admired the positive and independent attitude that your parents took to their permanent move to France.I have passed on your words to Monica & Barry in Clermont ,who made a similar move a few years earlier and I know they will be proud to hear how the Village showed it’s appreciation of your father.
    Be brave and continue to celebrate your Dad’s contribution to your life on your birthday on Sunday

  8. Heather

    I am certain while you are so proud of your Father, that he will be equally proud of you. Your tribute is deeply moving, beautifully written and so evidently from the heart. What better epitaph than in one of the most popular communication blogs in the UK.

    Being surrounded by elderly family brings home one’s own mortality. However, the opportunity to spend time with people as their life draws to an end is often a powerful, positive and extremely reaffirming experience for both parties.

    We will take a moment in Bristol on Saturday to keep your Father, your Mum and yourself in our thoughts. And as Gethin says, Sunday should be a time to celebrate your memories.

    Stay strong.


  9. Heather

    A beautiful post written under the most difficult of circumstances.

    The love within your family shines so brightly here.

    Thinking of you.

  10. Heather, please accept my condolences on the loss of your beloved father. How difficult it must be for your mother as well. What a beautiful tribute to one who was obviously a very fine man.

  11. Godspeed to your father, Heather.

    And thank you for all the excellent tutorials and resources you have inspired us with, despite the pressure you must have been under. Sounds like some of what you admired in him definitely carried through!


  12. Just wanted to add my condolences.

    I think it’s easy to forget sometimes that of all the achievements someone might make, to be loved and cherished by family and friends is probably the greatest of all. So it sounds like your father had a great life, and will be fondly remembered by many people. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Hi Heather,
    I was just wallowing in all of my own problems when I decided to read your blog for only the second time.
    I am so sorry for your loss but admire the manner in which you and your mother have come to terms with it. I hope that as the days and months pass, it will become a little easier to deal with. I’m sure the memory of your Dad, who sounds as though he had a wonderful influence on all around him, will help to sustain you both.

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