Nothing in life prepares you for this moment, when you are standing in a crematorium facing people who are sharing a service you have prepared to celebrate the life of your parent. Over to the side your husband stands offering support, behind your partner and a little to the left is a coffin containing your father waiting for the final committal to whatever lies ahead.
The following words are my farewell to my beloved father.
My dad was a legend and his legacy will live on. I know that he touched many people’s lives, and they felt all the richer for having met him and privileged to know him. Dad could make you laugh, he could make you cry, but he always made you think.
Little over three years ago he said goodbye to his wife, his partner and best friend, our beloved mother, Erika. He was devastated. It seemed then that his whole world had crumbled and that anything going forward made no sense to him. However, in the last year some of that blackness had very apparently lifted and he was looking forward to life. He was talking about travelling to a few places in England that he’d never seen. In fact Steve and I had already booked a holiday for this coming New Year with us to visit Steve’s family in the North East. OK the trip to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland play Blackburn may not have been the highlight, but I’m pretty sure he would have taken it in the spirit that it was to be given. We had some cultural places earmarked to visit too, as this was important to my father.
Dad was unbelievably talented and very intelligent. He had his own style of black humour and cynical way of looking at the world. He tried to find humour in most situations and I thank him for passing on this gene to me. Laughter makes the world go round and helps us out of some serious holes and awful circumstances.
Mum had lovingly labelled dad a grumpy old man in her later years. At times he was a blend of the TV comedy characters Alf Garnet and Victor Meldrew. I relate to an occasion when he had an invasion of squirrels in his office roof. Dad didn’t want to bring the exterminators in, such was his love of all creatures, but instead opted for a walking stick. This he continuously used to bang with gusto on the ceiling to counteract the noise the squirrels were making. He hoped the squirrels would evacuate on the count of his noise alone. At the same time came his utterances of disbelief because the squirrels ignored him totally.
Dad had a very strong political opinion. Unsurprising due to his background. Having survived the Holocaust he then felt he could no longer remain in Hungary in 1956 after the Russians had invaded and during the aborted Hungarian Uprising. With mum heavily pregnant with André they escaped and finally arrived in England in the December that same year. Ten days later my brother was born.
If you ever had a conversation with my dad it would inevitably and understandably lead back to his roots. It would appear that he never quite left Hungary although he was less than reluctant to return.
In the summer of 1972 we travelled back to Hungary. I was desperate to see my parents’ homeland and try to piece some of the puzzle together. My dad was not really looking forward to going back. However, if we were to go, we had to do this before André’s 16th birthday as he could have been called up for National Service.
For my part I have a very harrowing and sad memory of the country. We arrived very early in the morning, dad at the wheel, driving a bright orange Saab. To the Hungarian Nation we must have looked like Hollywood celebrities as all eyes were on us. My first impressions were that it was grey, the faces of the people looked grey and there were bullet holes that seemed to be peppered everywhere. This was an oppressed place and I had never been exposed to this before.
André and I went to the Budapest Zoo with dad. It was a place that he’d enjoyed as a child. Dad was very upset when I had my purse stolen. I only had a few worthless Hungarian Forints, but none the less it incensed my dad.
As kids André and I would have time out with dad. I remember him taking us to Battersea Fun Fair for special treats on a Sunday. We had a laugh and always had a chance to ride the rollercoaster. We had candyfloss; we had dad’s time.
When Sam and Ben were much younger both mum and dad came with us to Disneyland Paris, no one would ride the roller coaster with me apart from dad.
We were very privileged as children; we went on many foreign holidays. Dad’s love of skiing took precedence over any summer holiday.
Dad had many hobbies and interests including spending hours on the Internet, yoga, psychology, history, art, photography, classical music and opera, reading, writing poetry and subsequently his biography.
Of late he had rejoined the Spring Park Filmakers where he revisited his love of movie making.
Just this May dad gave me away when Steve and I married. I am very thankful we did.
Dad had a distinguished appearance. When I went to Madam Tussaud’s with Sam and Ben a good few years ago, they looked at one of the waxworks and, squealed with delight when they genuinely thought it was granddad. The waxwork was of Einstein!! Dad quite liked being Einstein’s doppelganger.
The last time I saw dad alive he was as spritely as ever. I can see him running across the street with a big, proud smile on his face, he was taking photographs of my art in a gallery window. I want to remember him that way, smiling and cracking jokes.
I feel angry and robbed. He wasn’t supposed to die yet. He was supposed to be here for another twenty years at least. I feel cavernous pain and complete shock. I still can’t process this. It doesn’t seem fair or real. I never got to say goodbye, no one did.
How can I sum up how much I loved dad and how much I will miss him? It’s not possible in this time span.
Dad was a legend, he was a very special friend and most importantly he supported, cared and loved all his family so very much.