One of the many ways my parents brought beauty and long horizons into our lives in a crowded council house in Crawley was yearly membership to the National Trust. This allowed our fast growing family to wander the exquisite gardens once enjoyed by only the rich as often as we liked. Nymans’ was close enough for visits after school in summer and so became the most frequently explored. My Dad, a physics teacher, piled us all in our VW for the short journey. It was a place I always walked with my Dad on trips home and when I returned from Istanbul in 2016, visits became almost as frequent as when I was a child.
There has always been something about my Dad’s gentle physical pace that reflected his inner calm and solidity. It held space for my thoughts. Walking beside him steadied my nerves and deepened my breath. In Nymans’, however busy the rest of the day, time was expansive, conversation generous and the wide vistas always lifted me.
On the 19th of October my Mum sent a message to our family group chat that the results of the scan we had all been pushing for my Dad to get were in and “it’s not good news.” Within hours all of my siblings had gathered to sit around Dad’s bed.
The next day, after visiting the doctor, my parents calmly delivered the news that Dad had terminal cancer. The first plan that was made following the news was that we would visit Nymans’ the next morning. We all wanted to sit with Dad in the little white summer house we had played in as kids and look out on the far reaching view. And so we sat, ten of us, watching the rain clear and the mist roll out of the valley.
Laughing, crying, steadying we pushed my Dad through the autumn flowers one last time.
My Dad did not leave the house again. Sixteen days later he died in my Mum’s arms in his own bed while I sat meters away in the garden they had grown together, enjoying a sunlit break in the rain with my beloved siblings. I am certain I haven’t even begun to process the enormity of my Dad’s passing. I know the waves of loss will come season after season. I also know that he has equipped me to walk with it, through it. During hundreds of walks he taught me the pace of recovery and reflection and to always always look up to see the view.