Blue is a yachtie who lives a life of extraordinary adventure.
He has sailed – successfully – the ‘wrong way’ around Cape Horn, worked for a stint as Rudolf Nureyev’s personal assistant, and written a book about it, A Year With Rudolf Nureyev, with his uncle Derek. His action-packed sailing photos, complete with sea spray in the corner, draw you into his musings for Seahorse International Sailing Magazine.
But he was brought up short about six months ago. He had just finished a long-distance phone call at the secluded country property he and his wife, Jane, share with their cat and horses in the NSW Southern Highlands.
“Your father isn’t as sharp as he used to be,” Blue’s mother had said, almost as an afterthought, at the end of the conversation, from the family home on the Isle of Jersey, where Blue grew up and his sailing life began.
Blue put the phone down, feeling pensive, and repeated the comment to Jane.
“You need to go see him, stay with them for a while,” Jane said.
It was a generous gift of support and time, triggered by Jane’s awareness of Blue’s need to say goodbye to his father. As a young woman, Jane was living too far away when her own father died, so she didn’t get to say goodbye – something she always regretted.
Blue went back to Jersey for four months and during that time of only fleeting telephone conversations, Jane encouraged him to stay.
“I knew it was the last time I’d get to spend any meaningful time with Dad,” he said.
“I stayed in my old boyhood bedroom, which was a bit strange.
“But I made one rule for myself – whatever I did during the day, including a job I took working for a local builder, I would dine at home in the evening with my parents. Any sessions I managed at the local pub were conditional upon this one rule.
“It was an extraordinary time. I got to hear stories I’d never heard before, find the answers to questions. Dad shared with me things he has never said before. I left knowing that we have both prepared. We have connected.”
There are documented physical and psychological changes that can occur after The Death of a Parent.
Good Grief’s own Funerals and Lockdown explores how to manage the grief of great loss in COVID.
And to read more personal stories about quality time at the end of life, read A Good Death: a compassionate and practical guide to prepare for the end of life.