Losing My Dad

4 years, 5 months ago 17
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A small lamp is illuminating my keyboard. I’m sitting upstairs in my parents’ house. The faint tick tock of a grandfather clock downstairs is echoing through the nightly silence. I don’t know what to write. It’s Thursday the 19th of September as I write this. My dad died this morning and I hoped that writing something down would help in some way. Instead, there’s an emptiness that I’ve never known before.

On Monday I received news that my dad had unexpectedly fallen ill the night before. His condition was serious. From the Isle of Skye we drove as quickly as possible back home. We were updated regularly on his progress. There was a chance an operation could help him. By the time I’d arrived in the hospital ward, we all knew that our dad was dying. I wasn’t prepared for it.

I saw him last Wednesday. He was thrilled to show me a Grandfather clock he’d bought. The large, wooden timekeeper didn’t suit the modern living room in which it now sat. It was always his dream to own one, he said. He’d seen it at a secondhand shop the week before for £90. A few days later the price was down to £50. They’d struggled to repair it. My father bought it, took it home, stripped it, put it back together again and brought it back to life. Those hands ticked again for the first time in years. I could see it meant a lot to him.

My dad, the man who taught himself to build computers at 60, the man who could learn to fix anything, who carried me in his arms to hospital when I was ill, who made me feel protected, who taught me to protect myself, who comforted me in his last moments because I wasn’t strong enough to comfort him.

As a small boy he hitchhiked up to Scotland just to see how far north he could go on barely a pocket full of small coins, such was his desire to travel. His explorations took him across the world. Never confined to one job, he went where he needed to, fueled by a desire to seek out the unknown.

Finally meeting my mother in Zimbabwe, he found some stability. We were born, however, during growing violence in the country. My dad was forced to use a gun on more than one occasion to protect us. Despite his love of Africa, we moved back to England to settle.

I was 17 the first time we bonded as adults. I had lost a close friend. In Cyprus, in the military, my father’s best friend was shot and killed as they walked side-by-side. Against the orders of his screaming commanding officer, my dad made sure that was the shooter’s final act.

Despite the different circumstances, this was something that we could relate to. I felt like he was the only one to know my grief.

He was my hero as a child, although I never told him. A man larger than life whose bravery seemed unconquerable, I often wondered if one day I could be as strong as him.

This morning we received a call from the hospital. His condition had deteriorated. We needed to get there as soon possible. As I walked into the room, despite his failing health, he recognised me. He asked me how long he had left. He knew us all well – all of our strengths and weaknesses. He wanted the truth and knew I’d be direct. Holding his hand and with tears in my eyes, I told him he didn’t have long. It was the hardest sentence I had ever mouthed. He comforted me, told me everything would be okay, and for the first and final time in our lives, we said ‘I love you’.

My dad died shortly after with his wife, 7 children, and brother by his side.

He’s still my hero. He stared death in the face and showed no fear, only love.

That old clock, the one I hear ticking and tocking below, keeps pulling me back as I daydream of times gone by or re-live the last moments we were lucky to have with our dad. I have to smile as I imagine him winding the old timekeeper and seeing it come to life for the first time.

Even in my emptiest hour, my dad makes me smile.

Dad, I miss you.





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  • Steve

    Sorry to read of your loss Jimmy – it was good that you were able to be there at his side considering your recent travel.

  • James

    Sitting here with a lump in my throat as I read your article, I would first like to express my deep regret at your great loss. However I am also struck by a deep sense of admiration for your ability to express your feelings at this difficult time. It is very clear that you have had a very rewarding relationship with your Dad, and I hope this will help you through the time ahead.

  • Richard

    There are no words, only emotion and admiration.

  • Mike Blythe

    Sincere condolences to you and your family Jimmy.
    RIP Mr Mcintyre

  • George Grivas

    My condolences Jimmy. Keep his memory inside.

  • Mary

    I am so sorry, you will always feel the loss….but the memories will become foremost in your mind to fill the hole in your heart. God Bless You

  • Paul Mitchell

    Jimmy I didnt know your dad from Adam. We never met, never spoke and I knew absolutely nothing about him. But after reading your post I shed a tear for him and for my dad who died recently. Strong influences in both of us that helped create the men we became. I never had a chance to say I love you dad, but Im saying it now. I love you. Sorry Jimmy.

  • http://www.worldinwords.net/ Delia

    Jimmy, just to say I’m so terribly sorry to hear your father has died. I know I did not know him but I can’t help but believe he must have been incredibly proud of you… The travelling, the pictures, your morals and beliefs. I’m sure part of him lives on in you. Thinking of you in this hard time.

  • John Jubinville

    So sorry to hear of your loss Jimmy. Be grateful that you arrived in time to share his last minutes, that was important to him. Have no fear Jimmy he will always be with you, in your heart and thoughts. You will find times when he is strongest in your thoughts and find yourself reaching out to him.
    Jimmy, keep his clock wound for him, every tick is a reminder. A thought to take with you. “The Road Ahead is Much Shorter than The Road Last Traveled.
    Stay Safe

  • Toad Hollow Photo

    Oh Jimmy, I am absolutely heartbroken to read your post today. I, too, lost my dad just a few short years ago and he was my biggest hero as your dad was to you. I totally feel for you and your family in this time of immense loss. If there is anything, and I mean anything at all, we can do to help you shoulder this pain and burden please reach out. You and your entire family are in our deepest prayers and in our hearts this weekend as we send you our very best wishes. We are so, so sorry.

  • jimi_b

    I wish I had words to ease your pain. When my folks left I found that we are all as butterflies. We live in these cocoons and until we are released from them we cannot show our true beauty. As the chrysalis we can no longer see the beauty of the butterfly but the butterfly is still looking after the cocoon that is us. It is okay to feel the pain and anger. It will ease in time. Their memory will never leave.

  • Roman Shymko

    Sorry for your lost! Many people sympathize with you in your sorrow.. And thanks for sharing your thoughts..Take care, man!

  • http://lois-bryan.artistwebsites.com/ Lois Bryan

    Oh, God, Jimmy, I’m so so so sorry. Wow, he sounds like such an amazing man … bless him … bless you. How wonderfully fortunate he was to have such a son … and you to have such a father. I know your pain … I can tell you, I’ve been where you are. But his strength is your strength. Count on that. I’ll be thinking about you both …

  • http://throughstrangelenses.com/ Jimmy McIntyre

    So many beautiful comments. I can never show you how much they meant to me but I assure you that every single one has helped in this difficult time Thank you,

  • theburb

    Sorry for your loss. I lost my Dad back in January. It was sudden. My last conversation with him was about music. He was a huge music lover, and I just bought my son a turntable for Christmas. My Dad was excited to hear that his grandson was into music too. And there in lies his legacy to me. I inherited his 140 vinyl album collection. Bitter-sweet.

  • Howard Vanderbilt

    Jimmy, you sound like such a sincere person. Your story really touched me. I’m glad you found that time with your father before he passed.

    I came to your site via 500px. I saw your 12 expert tips about photographing cityscapes at night. I wanted to thank you for sharing your expertise. I can honestly say I learned more about how to photograph at night from that one post than I have ever learned anywhere else.

    I’m also interested in buddhism. You may enjoy the talks of Ajahn Brahm who is in Perth in Western Australia. He uploads talks to youtube and is very inspiring.

    Thanks for everything, you’re a great guy. Respect.

    • http://throughstrangelenses.com/ Jimmy McIntyre

      Thank you for the kind words Howard. I’m glad you liked the article. Hopefully there’ll be plenty more to come :)

      I will check out Ajahn Brahm now. Thanks for the tip.

      Have a great day!