Grief and the Bar
Death clings to you. Grief snaps at your heels no matter how swiftly you try to move from it. It bites you when you least expect it. It’s sly and evasive. It hides and stalks you through stealth. You think you’ve lost it but then it jumps up out of nowhere as a lump in your throat, a sudden guttural cry, a tear that escapes no matter hard you try to blink the sadness away.
Something happens and you think, I’ll ask him…….
I wonder what he’ll think of…..
I want him to know……
And then it hits home. He is no longer there.
Seven months after my mother died [http://www.itsalawyerslife.com/bereavement-and-the-bar-by-rehna/ ] my father too passed away. Unlike with my mother, it was expected. He had suffered a long time. It was excruciatingly painful to watch this active, agile man waste away, erode almost, bit by agonizing bit. But even expecting it, you can’t prepare for that final breath. That absolute last goodbye.
The raw grief I felt at my mother’s passing gave way to a quiet desolation. I don’t know which is worse. Both are unbearable.
There is no tragedy in an adult orphan – until you’ve been there. When you experience it, you might as well be 5. A friend told me; you lose your anchor. your sense of connectedness. You lose your bearings, you’re cut adrift.
I understand all of that now.
I remember the man who guided my crayon and told me you had to colour inside the lines.
I remember the man who smiled and ate some cement like concoction I had made in my first cookery class and declared it edible.
I remember the man who walked the length and breadth of London with me as we searched for digs where I would live during my Bar school year.
I remember……. many things.
My father came to the UK as an immigrant at a time when there weren’t posters on the tube trying to convince people that immigrants can be valuable. He came at a time when there was open hostility, rejection and few opportunities. His education, quick silver mind and incredible memory counted for little as he buckled down to do jobs unworthy of his abilities. He was from a generation that didn’t complain. He just got on with it and worked the adage, if a job had to be done, it was worth doing well. In time he left the jobs he was too smart for and went into business, a world he clearly enjoyed but he had paid his dues to his adopted country. Let no-one try to argue his generation did not ‘belong’.
A handsome man, with his green eyes, brown hair and fair skin, he could have passed for a number of ethnicities himself and in turn made friends with those from a range of backgrounds. Seemingly quiet and reserved by nature, he was actually a great networker. He would have been a star on social media if it had been around during his youth.
Get to know your parents and you’ll know yourself. In the months prior to his death I made a point of talking to him as I had never done in all the years before. I interviewed him, asked questions as if I was eliciting information to build a case for court. Clinical as that might sound, it’s a great way to get a private person, which he was, to talk and in giving you the factual narrative of their life, reveal more profound thoughts and beliefs. I wish I had done it sooner. I wish I had understood him better during his life and the active, healthy years. I wish I had known earlier that in becoming a lawyer I had made him proud because it was a profession he had admired as a young man and maybe even aspired to. I might have told him more about the work I did, maybe even invited him to come to court in the days I did criminal work. But ‘should haves and could haves’ are painful to think of when the option is no longer there.
It’s perhaps better to think, instead, what my father’s home gave me.
My father’s home was one of love, warmth, happiness, integrity and values that have held me in good stead all my life. When people visited my father’s home, they rarely wanted to leave. There was something indefinable in the air that they liked, wanted to soak up, be part of.
It was that anchor that we all need. That anchor which I so often see missing in the family law cases I now do.
I never doubted it anyway but now I definitely know, fathers matter.