"These moments given, are a gift from time" (Kate Bush).

1 January 2017

Bereavement and love

"Grief is an expression of love". 

Those were the words of one of the speakers at the funeral of Barry Jones, who supervised my PhD at Cardiff University between 1997-2004. Barry was very much a father figure to me, a man who set me on my career path. I was very distressed at his passing in the Autumn of 2015. 

A short while after Barry passed away, I lost another hero and father figure of mine, Sir Terry Wogan. I look back on Barry and Terry almost as a double act during my time as a PhD student. Barry was my research mentor, while the unrelenting, chaotic mirth of Wogan's breakfast show got me out of bed like clockwork at 7.20am to go busking on the harp all over south Wales, and beyond, to pay for my rent and research fees. I could hardly have endured two sharper bereavements at such a difficult time of my life in 2015-16.

Nevertheless, I have continued to recall the words spoken at Barry's funeral. "Grief is an expression of love". In doing so, I have recalled other people and places in my life that perhaps I'd assumed were seemingly lost forever, or that I'd assumed to be irrelevant because they were in the past. Friendships that I had thought lost or irrepreparably broken. My late Dad of course. And indeed Paul Walters, the late producer of Terry Wogan's breakfast show, who's death in 2006 also left me incomprehensibly overwhelmed with grief, despite me never having met him in person.

In mourning, I have come to realise that in fact I have been blessed with an incredibly full and loving life. Ultimately, we need not fear losing things - we have to keep loving things. It's not always easy, and can be incredibly painful. But it can also bring feelings of joy and gratitude, which I felt on attending Sir Terry Wogan's memorial service in the Autumn of 2016.

Indeed, these thoughts have helped to guide me through a particularly shocking incident in late 2016, when a very popular and gentle school friend from Aberystwyth, Eifion Gwynne, was killed suddenly. My friend epitomised love in various forms. He loved his family, his friends, his community, and the language and nation of Wales. And everyone loved him back in return. 

I have learned that love is not all about roses and hearts. It is far more robust than that. It can outlast parting, separation and even death. A very pure form of love can be found in the act of letting go, and also in the acts of giving and receiving forgiveness.

It can withstand all manner of things that are thrown at it. It is tough and it is the foundation of all our relationships. I now know that love must be treasured, and handled with caution.

During his life, Barry Jones gave me my PhD. But in his death, he may just have passed on something even more important than that. Diolch, Barry, am bopeth. Thanks Barry, for everything.

In my recent experiences, I have learned that death is a part of life. My late Dad had obviously thought about this when he stated his final resting place in his will: he wished to be scatttered at sea in his beloved Shetland Islands. Having reflected on my Dad's course of action, I too have formally noted my own final resting place which is also one of timeless peace and living natural beauty in all four seasons.