If I could choose to relive one day in my life, it would be the last day I saw you.
You sat in the reception of Wits Jubilee Hall Residence with me, head bowed, heart heavy, forehead furrowed. Your hands were intertwined, with fingers fidgeting and twisting, telling me you couldn’t carry on anymore.
“I just can’t,” you said. “I (pause), just (pause), can’t, Jack, (pause). I can’t.”
I don’t remember what I replied. I don’t believe I even cried. I held the space for you, and with that stillness I felt your anguished state, your darkened demeanor, your lovely light almost extinguished. After all, I had already predicted the outcome of this before your first attempt months prior.
After your passing, within a week or two, I felt your spirit inside me. It was surreal. I walked down the front stairs close to where you left this earthly world, and I jolted to a complete stop. I felt you! I walked again; I felt your gait. I stopped walking.
“What is this, what is this, it’s you!” I thought. I never said a word to anyone about it. I felt you walking with my body, with my own two legs. I talked, and the words that tripped from my lips had your intent, purpose, exact intonation, lilt, your cheeky play. I laughed your “deep in the bottom of your belly” laugh, and when I smiled, my mouth crinkled up at the corners just as your mouth would have done. I even took on your quirky “stick your tongue in the side of your cheek mannerism” that drove us nuts.
I was mesmerized in this heightened state of awareness that you were living through me, with me, in me. Sadly, it passed quickly, and I missed you so much.
In reality, both of your precious children—your legacy—live and breathe you every single day. In my beautiful brother, Mark, I witness your patience, responsible nature, honey-sweet loving-kindness and extreme sense of decency. He carries with him your ability to express himself through the written word, your entrepreneurial style, your fabulous playful wit, your astonishing passion for fatherhood and just a little of your Taurean stubbornness when he requires it.
In me—your first-born, your daughter—you instilled a fierce ability to stand on my own two feet, almost as if you knew I would need this quality to get through some of the deepest and darkest times in my own life without you physically by my side.
I often hear your voice, British accent and all, repeating to me, “It’s history, Jack, it’s history!” From the earliest age, through you I learnt to have an immense appreciation for 35MM Films, old tales, genealogy, WWI and WWII, castles, strange exotic lands and Tudor Kings. You taught me how to remember the names of King Henry the VIII’s six wives by memorizing, “Are boles seen clearly? If so how far?” For what purpose I have no clue, but strangely I have never forgotten this piece of trivia.
You told me, “Jack, money is the root of all evil, and you won’t appreciate money until you earn your own.”
You were oddly old-fashioned, in that in your mind women were not destined for great careers. Something I chose to ignore and thankfully rebelled against, for I have proven you wrong and you are so very proud of me.
You sent me to work part-time from 15 onwards, and through that experience I learnt how to sell and gained good business acumen. Most importantly, like you I gained the wisdom that I have an immense passion for people and that I naturally build rapport, which brings trust and makes for lifelong meaningful relationships—something money can never buy.
You loved to annoy me by saying, “Jack, in my day and age, children were seen and not heard.” This drove me wild beyond belief, and not in the best of ways either. You never raised your voice to me or anyone that I know of; I respected you without doubt. Despite this old-fashioned saying you quoted, you allowed me to express myself safely and afforded me some space to be me.
I inherited your zany sense of humor and your frivolous take on fun, and I fondly remember earning the title of CEO, or “Chief Entertainment Officer” in my years at Compaq for all the crazy pranks I orchestrated with my peers and colleagues to keep morale high during dull or trying times.
You were the only person ever to call me Jack. Strangely enough, I had thought this shortly before I met one of my clients last week as I started the journey to grieve the anniversary of your death once again. When she called me “Jack,” my heart skipped a beat. It was like a little, “Hi, and how the hell are you Jack?” from my beloved father.
So Dad, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us life, for your unconditional love and for doing the very best that you could do for your two talented and wonderful children.
If I could relive that day and see you again, I know what I would say.
I would say, “Please, please stay.”
Author: Jacqueline Jauncey
Editor: Toby Israel