It’s hard to capture a person’s life in one short eulogy, especially when you’re writing about someone like my dad who seemed to me to live many lives, spanning many decades, touching so many lives. From his childhood years with his mum Marjorie and his Dad Archibald Macpherson, to his navy days in the second-world-war, and more recently his final decade in Spain, living in the sunshine, growing his beautiful garden, living and loving life to the fullest.
Dad often said that he wished he was 50 again, and to me that says many lovely things about the way dad experienced his world – that he’d live so much of his life all over again just to be able to enjoy and relish those moments once more.
But instead of trying to distill Dad’s biographical life into a few insufficient words I want to tell you a few things about what I know.
I know that I grew up with a Dad with surprises in his pockets: chocolate and sweets and long forgotten poems and well-worn photos.
I know that Dad was passionate about many things including his serene garden, The Wolves, playing pool, Patch, and DIY.
I know that I had a dad who didn’t really like the finer things in life; he didn’t appreciate good music or wine, and much less fine food. In fact he liked terrible food and terrible music and loved to watch terrible TV.
I know that Dad had a wonderful turn of phrase; that he liked to see a ‘man about a dog’, that he liked most foods ‘not partic’, and that his nickname for me, Billy, was sweet and enduring.
I know that Dad was an unusually modest man, whose humility was humbling except when it came to parking cars in impossibly tight spaces and bragging about his pool playing triumphs.
I know that Dad’s company was good company, and that while sometimes he was shy that he delighted in the company of others.
I know that Dad was a wonderful storyteller, and told funny tales with tears streaming down his face. “It was so bloody funny, Billy”, he would say, as he recounted how a fierce woman had shouted at him “to get out of my way, you silly little man” as he, Colin and Ian tried out their new self-built boat.
I know that Dad was deeply loved and liked and that I was his biggest fan.
I know that he made friends everywhere he went, and that watching the burgeoning friendship between himself and my son is my greatest ever gift.
I know that dad was a decent, good and kind man. And people’s kindness as mum and dad endured these final weeks speaks so much to Dad’s own sweetness and his capacity to touch people with his empathy and gentleness.
I know that the only person who could offer comfort and take away this terrible pain and this terrible loss is not here.
When people looked at dad they likely saw an older man whose story was coming to a close. I saw only an ageless man with an infinite future. I saw him and mum visiting us at Christmases in the distant future, I saw him planting apple trees and digging holes and choosing flowers to make new beautiful gardens; I saw him watching and delighting in my growing son, and I took dad at his word when he looked forward to the day he’d be putting Raf on the school bus.
But we all die in the middle of stories and my greatest sadness is that I will miss him terribly. I will miss him for us all.
I will grieve mum’s life partner and soul mate ‘Cammy’. I will grieve Uncle Ian’s older, cherished ‘our kid’. I will miss Colin’s and Bex’s Pop, and I will miss fiercely Jane’s, Fiona’s, Melissa’s and my Dad; our beloved and cherished dad. I will miss Tricky’s Keith-Lad, Codger Campbell, Sailor Boy, Arch and Archie, I will miss Pops, Grandpa, and Papa Keith.
To borrow a brief passage from W. H. Auden’s poem Funeral Blues
“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong”.