Friday Reflections – Remembering Dad: Honouring His Legacy and the Power of Remembrance

Remembering Dad Honouring His Legacy and the Power of Remembrance.

Last week my Dad would have turned 82, sadly he is no longer with us. But we do always try to ensure milestones, like his birthday, to keep his memory alive. Not so much for me, as I often think of him, but for my children… I want to make sure they remember Grandad.

My Dad was a schoolmaster and a Headmaster, we would often be invited to address the chapel or talk at remembrance services. On his birthday, therefore, I felt it appropriate to share some of my Dad’s own words as he talked about his views on remembering those we have lost.

Laura had been a student of Dad’s when he worked in the East End of London in the 1960s. According to Dad, she had been, ‘something of a rebel’ but they had gradually built up a close relationship. As she entered the Sixth Form, Laura very sadly developed cancer. Despite this she insisted on completing her A-Levels, in the end, having to be carried by the boys in her class to Dad’s lessons, which were upstairs. Although she did indeed sit the exams, she did not live to hear the results: only Dad and her parents were ever told her grades. Laura’s story was one that my Dad returned to more than once in his chapel addresses, often on the anniversary of her death. In 2015, he wrote the following:

“I certainly learnt a lot from Laura because, as a teacher, I teach some of the time: I learn all of the time. I learnt that young people are essentially very decent and fair-minded folk… and that they don’t want to be patronised by people like me but treated equally and consistently.

I can still see her very clearly now and hear her knocking on my door: ‘Dr Waller, I’m really angry with you, you are going easy on me in lessons, I don’t want that…’.

And I learnt that when someone leaves – for example, school at the end of their career – yes, even when they leave life, if we don’t forget them: in a quite definite way they live on. I mean I’m still talking about Laura 25 years later, and I’m introducing her to your memory for safe-keeping”.

Dad took huge stock in remembering people. At his funeral, one of his ex-students came up to me and said that, as his headmaster, my Dad had attended the funeral of his Grandfather, and although my Dad had never met his Grandfather, and only met his Grandmother at the Funeral, for the next twenty 20 years, until she passed away my Dad had written to her every year on the anniversary of the passing this boys Grandfather – he said it touched his Grandmother so much to know that her husband was remembered. Whilst I knew Dad was a prolific writer, after his passing I discovered he did this for many people.

I hope listening to this, not only have I shared my Dad’s memory and Laura’s memory, but I hope it has awakened the memory of others dear to you too, and in so doing enabled them to live on too.