Just over a month ago I wrote a blog about my Dad, my polestar. It focussed on what he had done in his life and read in some ways like a CV of his work and interests. But Dad did not climb any church heirarchies, he didn’t see these decades of creativity as a success and he would have been amazed to know his obituary would appear in the Church Times.
Since Dad died, just over five weeks ago, my Mother has received a steady stream of cards and letters full of stories of the way in which Dad has touched people’s lives in numerous ways. These are not, generally, stories of organisations founded, books published, promotions or career success. They are all stories of relationship, encounter and character.
They are stories of dropping in to visit someone (albeit wearing a cycle helmet back to front), delighting in lending someone threadbare socks when their designer kit had got soaked, making drinks for an unexpected guest in a silk dressing gown, gentle mentoring with right word at the right time or a lifetime of steady friendship.
There are words that re-occur in the letters and cards: holy, humble, human and hospitable and time and time again people refer to the beautiful relationship that my parents had forged together which inspired others and bought comfort and security to those around them.
Many of the cards mention Dad’s love for places in which he has lived, the vision he would have for a place and his belief in the inate worth of all that God has created. I think both his love and vision were born out of his commitment to prayer- he faithfully made time to read, meditate, study and reflect early in the morning and had a steady pattern of prayer throughout the day. Someone commented that he taught them to pray just by the way that he prayed.
Dad showed me so much in life and of course I miss him keenly every day. But in his death he has shown me perhaps more. Success cannot be quantified, it has nothing to do with career progression, titles and honours. It is not even about original ideas, initiatives and programmes. It is certainly not about being perfect – and of course, like any child, I know my parent’s failings.
“Tony always sought to build rather than destroy,” “You always felt better for seeing him,” “He was full of wisdom and compassion,”His smile was heavenly.” These are not the phrases found on a successful CV, this is what people say about you when you seek to live, loving God and loving your neighbour. This is the success I am seeking. I need to start by being less busy, perhaps less CV-focussed and finding my time of day to pray.