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The Dead Dads Club

There’s this club that few people talk about. No one wants to join it. Everyone who has joined it, wish they didn’t.

It’s the Dead Dads Club.

The club that you’re automatically in when your dad dies.

When I joined it, I didn’t realise what I’d joined. I didn’t realise until a friend joined me. He visited me a day or two after his own dad died. He needed to talk to someone, and since my own dad died earlier this year, he knew I would understand.

That’s when I realised we were in the Dead Dads Club.

Anyone who’s not in it will not understand what it’s about. And even when you’re in it, it’s hard to explain what it means.

The Dead Dads Club has members who are not discriminated by age, race or sex. The amount of money they have doesn’t matter.

When you join, your life is, at least initially, less than it used to be. What you took for granted, no longer exists. The time you thought you had with your dad in the future, is gone. You don’t get it back. You can never tell them what you wanted to tell them. You can never catch up with them.

They do not exist any more. There is nothing there, except for what is in your memory, and in your heart.

My friend didn’t get on with his dad. He was angry for a number of reasons. He was unable to forgive him for past transgressions. In his anger, he deprived his dad from seeing his new son – his dad’s grandson. He thought there would be a time when his anger abated, and he could feel comfortable letting his dad into his life.

But then he joined the Dead Dads Club.

It’s the club that will not accept excuses. If you didn’t do what you ‘should have done’, you will never get the chance to make amends.

It’s the club that forces you to live with the choices you wish you hadn’t made.

I was lucky. My dad died for 2 minutes about 15 years ago from a heart attack. I realised that ‘now’ was the best time to do what I needed to do, because waiting until later might be too late. I forgave him for his transgressions against me. I told him this in a letter. I released everything I was holding on to that deprived me of loving him for the human being that he was.

I learnt something incredible from this. I learnt that my dad was human, and that I was the same. I learnt that by forgiving him for his mistakes, I was forgiving my own mistakes. By understanding, accepting and forgiving the mistakes of my dad, I was doing the same for myself.

It opened my heart to loving him, and loving myself.

It would be another 15 years before I eventually joined the Dead Dads Club, early this year. The doctors had given him only 10 years after his heart operation, so the fact that he lived 15 years, dying at the age of 83, was a fantastic bonus. He died in his sleep, choosing his time to go.

When my family was together for the funeral, their greatest sorrow was not that he’d gone, but that they never told him the things that they wanted to. They had been too angry, or thought there would be plenty of time, or just didn’t think they needed to say the things that really mattered.

Their guilt was greater than their sorrow. They were sorry they never told him they loved him.

My brothers joining the Dead Dads Club was a shocking experience for them. For me, it was just sad.

A man who had lived for 83 years no longer existed.

He’d come from England in 1939, one of the ‘war orphans’ sent away to avoid death as World War II erupted. His parents died in the London bombings, him and his brother in Australia and his sisters ending up in Canada (he never reconnected with them). He learnt to live on farms and stations. He was married twice, and I don’t know how many step-brothers or sisters I have. He served in the Australian Air Force during the Korean War (1950’s), with his contribution being parachute packer. A very important job, we were told. And true too. Every airman needs a properly packed parachute.

His life was spent in the outback, in the farms, the deserts and arid landscapes of Australia. His hero was Slim Dusty, a country and western singer who also lived a life in the outback and sang songs about it. Like many of his generation who lived in the country, my dad considered Slim to be a ‘brother’, someone who understood what that kind of life was like, and was able to express it through his music.

At the last xmas I shared with my dad, I gave him a gift of Slim Dusty’s Greatest Hits. Now I treasure that album myself, even though I’m not a fan of Slim Dusty. It’s a connection with my dad, and when I listen to those songs I hear my dad in them.

The Dead Dads Club is not a joyous club. There is no laughter, there are no celebrations or happy gatherings. Very few of its members will get together, but for those that do, there is an understanding between them.

No one can understand what it’s like to be in the Dead Dads Club except for other members. No one wants their friends to join them.

The worst part about it is that the dad who’s always been around, no longer exists. They exist no more.

But life must go on. Talking with other members of the Dead Dads Club can help you cope. They understand where you’re at.

If you’re a member and you need to talk, or just want to add something to this topic, please feel free to add a comment. Alternatively you can contact me by email if you wish to keep it private.

I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry you’re in the club. I hope you’re able to cope, but I also hope that you understand you’re not alone in your loss and your grief.

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