I remember very vividly taking this picture. It was infact only 9 months before he died but at that time we were really hopeful for several more years as he had just embarked on a drug trial that we were hoping would significantly improve the prognosis. Dan had just had keyhole surgery to stabilise a tumour on his back and he was feeling better than he had done in weeks. We had been lent a cottage in Wiltshire for the weekend and were walking in the grounds at Stourhead. I remember it as a really perfect weekend. All four children were with us, Dan was well, the cottage and location were gorgeous and we had fabulous weather. We did a couple of really long walks that weekend around the grounds of Stourhead at this point had really just started on one - I remember the children had all been given maps by the National Trust and they were deciding on paths and routes and I just grabbed Dan for a portrait. I hardly ever took pictures of him on his own – I usually took everyone together or just the children but I think I had a sense of this been a perfect moment. I’m glad I took it, I really like his expression. It has humour, compassion and is just a little bit sardonic. Although his face looks a slightly puffy from the steroids he had to take he looks very much himself and how I like remembering him. When I was looking for a photo for the order of service I wanted one that was reasonably recent and showed some of his character too. I find it quite a hopeful image. We were having a good time, he was facing life full on, enjoying what he had and hopeful for the future too.
As an only child, I got to choose the photo of Dad for the OOS that I wanted on my own so the decision was all mine. I chose this one because of several reasons:
- it’s a good picture of him and a reflection of how he looked for the last 10 ish years of his life and he looks a bit thin maybe but healthy and tanned!
- he’s smiling really nicely and not pulling a silly face (which he tended to do in photos!) and he’s smiling at me (I was taking the photo) and I can see the love shining out in his eyes.
- he’s wearing a top that I had bought him when me, him and the kids went on holiday the previous summer to Mundesley which is a really special place for us - this is actually a top that we kept in our box of memories of him as it was one of his favourites that he wore a lot
- the photo was taken when we were out for afternoon tea for my birthday so it was a happy occasion - we had lost my mum about 18 months earlier and dad had been living with us for about a year and he’d settled in and was happy to be with us
It’s interesting to me that it’s taken me longer than I thought it would to send you this email. I thought that I could bash out a couple of sentences easily as I knew the reasons why I’d chosen the photo but I then realised that I wanted to devote some time to the task and to concentrate on it, as anything else seemed disrespectful to Dad. And sitting here thinking about it all has really upset me, which I didn’t expect it to, to be honest - but I’m grateful to be able to take the time to be upset and I wouldn’t have done that if not for you asking me to take part in this project. I haven’t cried over Dad for the last few weeks but I realise now, that I had a lot of tears and emotion that I needed to get out!
These are my reflections on our daughter’s order of service:-
- It was designed by her husband and a good friend of theirs. The first time I saw it at my daughter's funeral I recall thinking how modern and attractive it was - apart from that it didn't connect with me.
- Over the four years since my much loved daughter's death, when I look at the front cover I feel an element of grief as well as real comfort.
- Central on the front cover is an image of a very happy beautiful daughter on her wedding day. I have had to accept that this was the image chosen by her husband, whereas as her mother I thought about her young life and growing up.
- The heart shaped surround is filled with words which describe her roles in life and wonderful qualities. This gives me great comfort and pleasure. However, I would have included the word 'intelligent' which I feel is missing
- When I look at the picture and words I feel this is a fitting memorial to a fantastic person who was a shining example of coping with a terminal illness with such courage and lack of self-pity at a relatively young age.
- I feel encouraged, uplifted and proud as well as feeling the loss.
On the subject of Dad’s photo...I don’t remember reviewing options we thought might be good. Possibly we talked about that one of him as a young man on the beach in Spain...and although I liked the one we chose I would have preferred to have one of him in his prime. It’s probably a man thing, but when you are 25 you feel like the world is at your feet and although that is a complete fallacy, you don’t quite realise it yet. It gives you a sort of power that you only have for a short time in life. I can see it in the eyes of young men now and it’s great to see – and I think that’s what I would like to have seen for our Dad on his OoS.
On the picture we chose though – I was happy with it from an older man’s perspective. He looks happy despite being ‘well worn’ and his shirt has a sort of boho element to it (the way it’s unbuttoned and hanging) that belies his rigid outlook on life. In that sense it’s sort of lying, but I won’t begrudge him that off the back of his final farewell. It’s also a direct gaze from a direct man with a mischievous air and that really is true to his colours.
One last thing to say – I have now gone to look for the order of service I have upstairs to review the picture – I was able to do all that from memory which in itself says it was a good choice!
I suppose being the photographer in the family I took it upon myself to dig around the family archive for a recent photograph of Dad. I offered a few options for my brothers and I to decide over – this one seemed to be the favourite. I took this photograph of him at a family wedding where I had been asked to be the photographer. Whenever he was attending an event where I was working he always looked so proud of me! He was proud of all of us and yet it took quite a specific occasion for him to express this directly! Although the reproduction did not print out as well as I had hoped – his hair bleaches out into the white marquee background - he is looking cheeky and happy and very much like himself just before he died.