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Father and Son – Two Grown Men Saying Goodbye 

By Paul C Pritchard on Thursday January 30th, 2020

My Father died three and a half years ago. I wasn’t at his side. 

We had a typical father and son relationship for our generations. He was absent for a lot of my childhood, working two or three jobs to keep food on the table and paying off a home loan. He worked hard. Survival and pride kept him away. When he was home he was also working: decorating the house, gardening, growing food, helping neighbours, fixing the car, repairing bicycle innertubes, scolding us for this, that and the other. I didn’t feel close to him. But I didn’t feel distant either. We watched each other like ghosts for the most part. 

It’s only with adult eyes and the gift of hindsight that I truly learned what an exceptional man he was. He was, above all else, a kind man. He put others before himself. He wasn’t perfect and he and I had some confrontations, especially in my self-obsessed arrogant teenage years. I am not proud of how sometimes I treated him coldly. I took him for granted and I was entitled. I could be so detached as there was no emotional landscape for us to meet. I felt nothing but confusion around my expected masculine emotional language. My Father came from a harsh and poor working-class background. One of ten brothers and sisters. He had no time to finesse his emotional intelligence or expression. He was a survivor.

My father was born in 1943. World War II and its bitter hangovers instructed him about lack and sacrifice. His own father died in The War while he was in his mother’s womb so he missed a father’s love and touch. His mother remarried, had seven more children and died young. He had no time for therapy, self-enquiry, or words like trauma, overwhelm, grief or hardship. He learned about life the hard way. In the light of all he endured, he really did turn out okay.

“…”No need to forgive, no need to forget – I know your mistakes and you know mine. Image: Paul Pritchard

He loved my mother and he loved us kids in his own way. I was a child in the ’70s and ’80s. The world was recalibrating. The social injustices and inequalities were under the microscope. Everything was being questioned. Especially gender roles, both a man’s place and a woman’s place at home and at work. 

He and I leaned into the new era of the ’90s around the importance of expressing love and showing it. He took to it like a duck to water. He didn’t say sorry for the times he’d been gruff and I didn’t say sorry for the times I’d been dismissive and cold. We didn’t need to. We both, without a word, implicitly, signed up for the zeitgeist course in how to be more gentle with each other; how to redefine what it means to be a ‘man’, how to examine what was hurting our relationship in the name of inherited acceptable familial interactions of post-War England. In short, we began to open our hearts and let all that we shared in DNA, love, family, joy and pain mumble and scramble for words until we became fluent in our own language of love and support. 

My Father died three and a half years ago. I wasn’t at his side.

I grieved a little. I was happy that he had finally left a failing body in pain. I was happy for him. But somehow I had put all the deep grief away. Even now when I write this I can feel my old conditioning of what’s appropriate or acceptable in how a grown man grieves his dying or dead father. When I feel into the grief that I will feel when my mother dies it has a different nuance entirely. It is allowed, it is proud, it is strong and belly-deep. I’m expected to grieve this way for her. But with my father there is shame attached. Shame at how much I loved him and how much he loved me. And I am curious why this love for most men in Western culture feels so taboo. Why that lump in my throat stays in my throat. That the honest, raw and public expression of grief for him is something to keep hidden. Why does it have to feel courageous to let it out, give it a voice, let it be heard?

“…”Let there be no darkness in your heart. Image: Paul Pritchard

This is a big thing for me to explore. I have worked on so many layers of my Mother and Father complex issues. I’ve made peace with so many of the great pieces. And yet recently, when I came across the video of James Blunt’s new hit song, Monsters, it stopped me in my tracks. It literally went for my jugular. Went straight for that tightly wound lump in my throat that I’d managed to ignore. I knew it was there, there since my Father’s death, but I had successfully relegated it into an abstract denial. 

James Blunt wrote and filmed the song for his father who is dying of cancer and does not have long to live. He asked his father to be in the video. The words, ‘You’re not my father, I’m not your son. We’re just two grown men saying goodbye.’ astound me. The spiritual significance in these words is monumental. The dignity and the honour that is imbued in these words is so humbling. I interpret those words as: beyond our assigned Earthly roles of father and son, as equals on this spiritual path, I salute you and I set you free.

This is what I am saying to my father now.

I believe this video, not the song alone, but the video is a gift to all of us. But especially Men. My prayer is that all boys and men watch this video and can resonate. And when it’s their time to say goodbye to their father, their sons, their brothers, grandfathers or best mates, they can unreservedly weep and release all the sorrow and pain, all the stifling grief and rejoice in the liberation that comes from those connected, heartfelt, expressions of Love. 

My father died three and a half years ago. And I am now truly at his side.

James Blunt – Monsters

Monsters by James Blunt (Lyrics)

Oh, before they turn off all the lights
I won’t read you your wrongs or your rights
The time has gone
I’ll tell you goodnight, close the door
Tell you I love you once more
The time has gone

So here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

Oh, well I’ll read a story to you
Only difference is this one is true
The time has gone
I folded your clothes on the chair
I hope you sleep well, don’t be scared
The time has gone

So here it is

I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine
And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

Sleep a lifetime
Yes, and breathe a last word
You can feel my hand on your arm
I will be the last one, so I’ll leave a light on
Let there be no darkness in your heart

But I’m not your son, you’re not my father
We’re just two grown men saying goodbye
No need to forgive, no need to forget
I know your mistakes and you know mine

And while you’re sleeping, I’ll try to make you proud
So daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?
Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn
To chase the monsters away

~

How did this video make you feel? How comfortable was it to stare into James Blunt’s eyes and witness his emotionality? Did it awaken any repressed feelings of grief or fear of loss for your father? Do you recognise that perhaps there is a difference in the ‘permissions’ you have in how you express grief for your mother and father?  We would love to hear your experience. Please share in the comments below. 

Much love and masculine tenderness to you all.

Team UPLIFT

How do you feel about this article? Join the conversation.

 

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58 Responses to Father and Son – Two Grown Men Saying Goodbye 

  1. I am very difficult to emotionally involve but this really knocked me out. I am 81 and definitely have the “Finish Line” in view but, until a few years ago, I really did not understand or respect my Dad (or my Mom). I wish I could talk to them one last time because the way it is now, I will never have closure.

    • James,
      I’m so sorry to hear of your sadness and that you cannot speak with your parents to help heal this. I myself have found writing letters to loved ones passed of things I never got to say and burning or burying it, to be a surprisingly powerful way to find a little more peace in my heart.

      I hope you can find a way that works for you too.
      Much love.

      Team UPLIFT

  2. Thanks for this article and for sharing the video. I was born in 1943 as well, but I haven’t gone yet. My father died of bronchitis. The last time I saw him, I said, “Thank you for everything.” He said, “I don’t want to talk.” That was it. We certainly didn’t say goodbye to each other. I had a difficult relationship with my mother, very dominating, totally not accepting me as my own individial. The last time we saw each other, when I left, she said, “It feels as if we are saying goodbye.” I knew that it was. She died a year ago in a care home. I was far away.
    Now I am a priest and a spiritual leader, perhaps I have a few years left. I am realising more and more how emotionally pent up I am. IN a social environment that does not “permit” heartfelt exchanges, or deep honesty.
    I cried with the video. Amazing courage to express himself like that, and with his father as well.

    • thanks for sharing … sending you so much love and heartfelt support … Your tears help wash the space clean. Love Paul

  3. Tears comes easily after this …
    My day died of heart failure after a heart attack.Those precious 9 month of looking after him were precious to me. I had to look after and living with my mum who had Alzheimers.. I did not bring her to the funeral..she never believed he had died and I found it hard to grieve whilst I had supported her into care.She died 2 years later…never remembering he had gone.. I grieve now but also remember how lucky I was to have such a loving dad.
    The song ..well..brings it all back.Amazing words.

    • Tears can be so healing … I love your sharing. Thank you. And may you and your beloved parents be surrounded by peace. Much love Paul

  4. My father is now at 64 and his body is in pain. Sinusitis, high blood pressure and unable to hear well. We are living together and everyday if not every other day we end up hurting each other through bad exchanges of words. After seeing this story and the video of James with his father beside him I just thought of extending my patience. I am a college drop out while my father was a mechanical engineer. I had a lot of mistakes and my father had his. It brought tears in my eyes as I am not yet ready for him to go. I still have a lot of plans for him and my mother to experience. I am now a father of 3 little boys but I still prefer to stay with my parents to care for them and for them to be with their grandchildren. Thank you Paul for sharing this once I get home I promise to change my approach with my father. ❤️

    • Dennis … this is so touching to read. Thank you … May the circle of your family masculinity get stronger and wiser in the heart and intuition with each revolution. Much love Paul

  5. I am 74. My father’s time came 14 years ago while I was overseas. He was a combat veteran in WWII of the South Pacific. Your story and song resonated big time. Thank you.

  6. Thank you, Paul, for sharing this. My partner passed in December, and, of course, I am grieving. He has sons and daughters I am sharing this with — it is so wonderful to be able to lean together into the grief, into the full catastrophe of life…and death. The video was beautiful as are your words and those of James Blunt. Thank you.

  7. My father was a very sweet and soft man. My mother managed the family withour 5 kids. I was the last one. In later life a also became a good and deep relation to my father. The others neglected him as before.

  8. Beautiful video that brought tears to my eyes! My Father passed away some 40 years ago and I was far from him and learned about it months later. But I didn’t feel any sorry or sadness at that time, I was a young man who had too many grudges against him. After that I grew up and evolve in a way to believe I would react completely different if he passed away today. I cried several times for my Dad, forgave him various other occasions and wish deep in my heart I could say similar words to him. Thanks for sharing as it made me look deep in my heart!

  9. As the sole caregiver to my mother with Alzheimer’s, I’m hardly ever am able to find the time to read un-business related emails. When I received a call this morning informing us that my mother’s sister died earlier this morning, the subject line of the email, “The Sorrow and Sweetness in the Circle of Life” jumped out at me. I opened the email to find this poignant “Father and Son” story and James Blunt’s video. While reading the story, it suddenly dawned on me that my father passed exactly 4 years ago to the day on Jan 31. He was very much like the father in the story, absent from a lot of my childhood and our relationship always felt strained. Although I always felt he wasn’t there for me growing up, I found the strength and capacity to get beyond any resentment and found healing in becoming his caregiver when he got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It got so bad with him that eventually the only person he remembered was my mother and would talk about their life as if they were still young sweethearts. The last 2 years of his life he thought I was his brother and always called me Sam, instead of John…his only son. This hurt at first, but then we developed this very “brotherly” relationship and he would share childhood stories with me that I never heard and I found a closeness with him that didn’t exist before. Eventually, Dad started walking out of the house in the middle of the night and would wander into the street. This and his inability to complete the simplest tasks like eating and bathing, along with extreme incontinence made it impossible to continue to care for him at home. We had no choice but to put him into an assisted/ memory care facility. After 3 years he finally passed with next to nothing remaining of his mind and physical body. It was extremely difficult to watch a man who was a respected lawyer and family court magistrate for the majority of his life wither away. My mother and I visited him nearly every single day while he was there and we were with him until the hour before he passed. We were there for nearly 7 hours straight since we didn’t think he would make it through the night. Finally at half past midnight I took my mother home. Thirty minutes later we got a call saying he passed at 1 AM. I remember holding his hand and telling him it was OK to go and I assured him that I would take care of his beloved sweetheart, my mother. I didn’t shed a tear when he died and felt relief for both myself and my mother. Reading this story and watching Jame Blunt’s video ultimately brought out the deeply buried grief and tears. Aside from this cathartic experience, I also found out that my mother’s sister died on the same date exactly 4 years later at the same EXACT time as my father at 1 AM! Strange coincidence or perhaps some sort of sign? I guess it was no mistake that I opened this email this morning. Fortunately, my mother’s Alzheimer’s is no where near as bad as my father’s and she’s fairing pretty well still living at home in the house she loves. Each day brings on new challenges and I continue to ask the higher powers for more strength and patience. Thank you for sharing “The sorrow and sweetness in the circle of life”!

    • Thank you for taking the time to share this particular tender part of your very own circle of life. It’s a gift to us all … stories connect us and take us beyond the ‘story’ … into the heart of what truly matters … the universal Love that binds is all. I am very moved by your kindness and devotion. All Love to you. Paul

    • Thanks John for sharing. My mother lived at the end of her 95 years also in an old peoples home. She was very happy there and went over very peacefully. She couldn´t remember and lived in the moment. She knew, who I was till the end. And we shared everything and laughed a lot. Until she went in this home, she had lived alone. My sister took care of her. I could speak with her on phone, cause I live in the north of germany and she in Amsterdam(NL). In the home I went with my camper and stayed some days there.

    • My heart goes out to you from Greece. I had a very painful five years close to my Dad with the same cruel illness. They are no longer tormented, scared, confussed and dependent. May they and all others who suffered this illness now feel deeply at peace with all.

  10. I found this so very moving and James Blunt’s song reduced me to tears. My father died many years ago now, as did my mother and I realise that I haven’t grieved properly for either of them. I had a difficult relationship with my father and never did feel that close. This was nobody’s fault as he always did what he thought was for the best. Now I am 76 and look back over the years with sadness at missed opportunities and of being unable to tell my parents my true feelings but gratitude as well for all they did do.

    • Thanks for your wisdom and reconciliation story. May you always find the grace to feel this life fully and let it go with tenderness. Much love Paul

      • My dad passed away in October, my mom called me to tell me. My heart broke, yet I never mourned like I thought I should. He was a hard man to get close to,as he grew older, he softened some. His hugs got tighter each time we said goodbye. This video truly touched my soul.

    • Yes and here’s where the magic lies. Through the emotional layers we can find each other in vulnerability and tenderness – in the truth of who we are. Unburdened from constraints of received notions of who we believe ourselves to be and the limiting roles we’ve been assigned or bought in to. May we all keep breaking the chains of emotional obstacles and meet in our open hearts. Much love Paul

  11. It was an awesome video, and me very emotional as I felt that i missed saying so much to my Dad, almost 18 years. He loved his family and did the best he could for his wife (my Mom ) and us kids. But I always felt that he was not appreciated as much as we should have due to our own hangups and LIFE in general.
    God Bless His Soul:)

    Thanks for sharing this powerful video

  12. That was such a simple and powerful video. It moved me to tears. My mother who is 72 lives with me, and has been for 12 years. I know, as ready as I think I am for the day she passes, I will miss her everyday.
    I tell her I love her and thank her for being her everyday.

    • Your mother is so blessed to have you … and you have the gift of taking care of her as she did for you as a baby. Much love to you both. Paul

  13. I cried pretty much all the way through this video – still crying as I write now. I have found it much harder to forgive myself for my mistakes than it has been to forgive my father for his…

    Writing here brings to mind one of the last moments of true connection I had with my dad. He was suffering from Alzheimer’s and preparing to move with my mom to be nearby my sister, who would be able to help with his care. I had been wheeling him in his wheel chair along a path by Lake Scranton where we had walked to go fishing when I was a little boy – back before I got so full of adolescent arrogance and contempt, and drug bust trouble with the cops in our home town. Stopping to look out over the lake I said to him “Dad I just want to say again how sorry I am for all the trouble I caused way back when.” He looked at me with such tenderness and said “Trouble? You were always such a good boy…”

    I cried then, kind of like I am crying now.

    • I love this … the soul is always such a good boy. It’s the pain-body and the ego that cause all the suffering. Your father saw your soul in the end. Much love to you. Paul

    • thank you Bella … I try to be a good man and to own where in my ego structure I am not. Much love to your heart for seeing mine. Paul

  14. Dear Paul,

    I am female and 72. I was a caretaker to my mother and sister until their deaths. My younger sister died of breast cancer and my 91-year-old mother died of a broken heart. I have so many regrets… I could have held my words, been kinder, been stronger, etc. I was my mother’s firstborn. I was unwanted, and I became her whipping post. Our relationship was very difficult. So, for me to become her caretaker when no one else could do it was ironic. I took care of her for six years. It was painful for us both at times, but also a growing experience for us both as well. In the end, we were just two grown women, who had finally earned to love one another, saying goodbye. Your article was beautiful and so well written. I cried through the entire video, and am still in tears. Losing anyone, despite knowing that we are eternal and more than our physical bodies, is still so painful. I cherish the memories of all of my departed loved ones. Love, even when difficult, is a precious gift. Thank you for sharing your gift and your loving words.

    • Thank you Cheryl for your open-hearted honesty. Keep using the gifts … they are everywhere. If you can’t find one today … simply look in the mirror. Much love to you. Paul

  15. Deeply touching for anyone who has experienced the loss of a life partner or parents. Sincere thanks for sharing Paul. Much love to all

  16. Thank you for sharing this Paul. It puts us on a level playing field with our fathers. “No need to forgive, no need to forget
    I know your mistakes and you know mine.”

  17. This article is a gift to all of us. Thank you Paul for sharing the depths of you. So good for other men (and everyone) to read!
    The James Blunt video is powerful and makes it extra special.
    So great that we can write on line and add these videos and things. Can’t do that in writing.
    Even though we all have issues with the earthly roles we are assigned, death is always the time to understand that there is no reason to suffer in relationships. We wonder why we did. If we can understand that early, then death is not so traumatic.
    Laara

  18. my dad has been gone for almost 40 years and I still repress so many emotions which are reflected so well in « Monster ».

    He fought in the 2nd world war, came home an alcholic and mistreated my mom, who passed at an early age. He did his best to give me a good upbringing, which I failed to recognize due to my own self pity. Right now I forgive him for his missteps and ask him to forgive me for mine. We are just two grown men …….

    • Dear Chris … thank you for sharing your heart and courage. May we all find peace with for all our past hurts. Many blessings to you. Much love Paul

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