Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A Life Well Lived #shortstory


Freddie was with the boy for only a very short time, but he watched him from the shadows for more than eighty-five years.

In those misty, forgotten days just before the 1939 war, Freddie would follow the little boy up the dark, narrow stairs to his bedroom, a journey made by candlelight; there was no electricity in the old Suffolk farmhouse.  Freddie sat beside his bed during childhood illnesses, walked with him down country lanes, and silently persuaded him against the more outlandish boyhood pranks that flitted through his young mind. 

He wept alongside him when his beloved cousin was killed in Northern France in 1940; he hoped the boy could feel his arm about his shoulders.

Freddie watched him grow into a solemn, hardworking lad who became head boy at his senior school, silently congratulated him when he landed his first job, and was delighted when he met the outgoing, affectionate woman he would marry.  She smiled a great deal; everyone agreed she brought out the best in him.


He watched the boy become a man, make his way in the world, gain a fine reputation amongst peers and superiors, always respecting the traditions and values of his upbringing.  Most of all, though, Freddie was glad he and his wife had a happy marriage.  Everyone liked him and enjoyed his company; that was more important to Freddie than anything.

The couple had three children.  Freddie felt great pride when they brought their baby son home from the hospital to complete their family; he stood in the quiet shade of the lilac and laburnum trees, smiling as the boy took photos of his wife holding their new baby on that warm afternoon in early summer, with their daughters standing on either side.  


He kept a watchful eye on man and wife as they made the most of their leisurely autumn years by travelling abroad.  Later, Freddie shared the boy's pain during the difficult time when his wife's mind began to falter, and his sense of loss when she was moved into residential care.  He knew, though, that he would receive great comfort from his friends and family, for the boy was a wonderful father, uncle and friend who never failed to reach out a helping hand to those in need in his small village community.  His children said he had a more active social life than they did.  Freddie was with the boy and his children all through those last five years, and was warmed by all the happy moments they shared.  

He knew when time was running out; he gently pushed the boy to visit the places of his youth with his son and older daughter, and the home of the younger daughter who lived many miles away.  To do all he would want to do for one last time.  The boy was becoming frail, but Freddie was determined he should not suffer, or become dependent on others; he would have hated that.

The end came out of the blue one ordinary Thursday afternoon, a great shock to all who loved him, though they derived no small comfort from the knowledge that he had suffered no pain.  The son talked to him at his hospital bedside and Freddie listened, too, so moved by his words; he knew his boy, though unconscious, could hear them, too.


Freddie was with them all on the beautiful, golden autumn day when they laid the boy to rest.  The son and the favourite nephew helped bear the coffin into the ancient village church, and Freddie walked beside the two daughters as they followed behind, arm in arm, the younger woman struggling to hold back tears (she cried easily, like her mother), the elder one bearing her grief with stoicism, as her father would.


The congregation was one of the largest the vicar had seen at that church, and her address honoured her friend, as did the tribute and bible reading from his children.  At the graveside the men with medals saluted him; once a sapper, always a sapper.



The family and friends moved off, and Freddie waited.  He stood with the boy's aunt and uncle who had cared for him in childhood, with his beloved cousin who died in battle over seventy years before, and his brothers and sisters.  The boy walked towards them; he was smiling, he looked younger, and though he still used his walking stick he no longer seemed to need it.

 
Freddie held out his arms.

"Welcome home, son; it's been a long time."

 My grandfather, Frederick, who died around 1931



In memory of my dear father, Douglas Gibbs.
25 June 1929 ~ 28 September 2017



35 comments:

  1. Beautiful story! I really enjoyed it, and I love that it honors your grandfather.

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    1. Thanks so much, Becca, glad you liked it x

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  2. This is so moving.A lovely slant on a life well lived. Your father would be so proud of your writing this, I'm sure.It's now twelve months this week since my mum passed and so much resonates. To think that all loved ones are reunited is a wonderful image. Thank you, Terry

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    1. I remembered that Dad really liked the Alzheimer's one I wrote that was sort of about Mum, so I thought he wouldn't mind me writing this (he was quite a private person), and Julia thought he would like it, so I felt it was okay to post! Yes, it's a nice idea. I hope it's true. I never believed in the afterlife before Dad died, but now I find myself doing so, so I hope it's not just wishful thinking!

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    1. Thank you. And you'll like this - I still have the golden rose on Mum's hat from the wedding picture - it's 65 years old now :)

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  4. Such a beautiful way to remember your dad. And wonderful photos too.

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    1. Thank you! We used the walking stick photo on the order of service, and the one of Mum and Dad's wedding day on the back, because Dad always kept it in his wallet. The walking stick one was taken in August, outside the house in Suffolk where he lived with Mum when they were first married. Obviously the baby in the last one is me!!

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  5. What a beautiful tribute! I was smiling and crying by the end. Your father was an incredible person. Well, he must have been because he raised an incredible daughter. My condolences on your loss.

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    1. Thanks so much, Barb. People kept coming up to me at the funeral and telling me what a wonderful person Dad was and how they felt honoured to have known him. I know people say that stuff at funerals anyway, but I knew they meant it. He had made friends with an old chap down the road called John, who spent most of the wake talking to my friend Amy (who took all my Lindisfarne photos!), and said the same thing to her. He loves Bill Bryson so we gave him all Dad's BB books. I shall keep in touch with him :)

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  6. Lovely story, Terry. I like to think my father watches me sometimes. Not the same as being here, but a comfort of sorts...

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    1. Thanks, Anita - yes, it is, isn't it? I hope it's true, for both of us xx

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  7. Very touching story Terry, I loved it

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  8. Well, I believed in an afterlife before Dad died, and I still do. Thank you so much for this lovely story, Terry, I am sure Dad would have loved it. I can't read it without crying, so I have to be careful when I read it. We were so lucky to have him as our father.

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    1. That's why I wrote what I did on the card for his flowers. I suddenly remembered the trees in the garden when I wrote the bit for the photo of us as children ~ pear, mauve lilac, laburnum and white lilac. :)

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  9. A really moving tribute... Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Oh, this is really wonderful, T. What a beautiful story for your wonderful father. A life well lived indeed.

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  11. Lucky Freddie and lucky us. Lovely story.
    EzX

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  12. Such a moving, heart-warming story, Terry. Thanks for giving us the chance to "know" your dad and grandad. Very touching. xx

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  13. Terry this is such a beautiful, poignant and moving story and I cried when I read it. You all must have felt so proud of your dad and I can understand that feeling. x

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    1. Thanks so much, Sharon. I know - as you did about Derek, who was also an intrinsically good and generous person. It seems to have made everyone cry... my mother in law had to have several attempts before she could read it all. I wanted it to be happy, though, too; I think that photo of Dad (which we used on the Order of Service) makes him look as though he is walking towards his own father.

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  14. Such a beautiful story, Terry....and so very tender xx

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  15. What a wonderful story and tribute to your beloved dad, Terry. I really hope we do have guardian angels watching out for us and that in the end we are reunited with those we love xx

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    1. Yeah, nice idea, isn't it? Mind you, so is eternal happiness. I think we all hope that. If I die before you and it's true, I'll come back and tell you in a ghostly blog comment :)

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    2. .... and yes, that is four year old me in the picture!!

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    1. Thanks so much, and for reading it :)

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  17. Terry - I have been waiting for when I had a moment to myself to read your story as I knew it would resonate with me and make me cry - I lost my Mum in June and it still feels raw. Julia sent me the link and I have just found the time to sit down and read your lovely tribute to your Dad. Such lovely words and thoughts too of the afterlife which I totally endorse. Great photos too.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Fiona, and I am so sorry about your mum, I know how it feels, of course; I was dusting one of my shelves with pictures of Dad on today, and it all came over me again how much I miss him. I don't know if I believe in any afterlife or not, but it's a nice thought! x

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