'Chip Sticks' - a moving and uplifting experience of loss by Claire Henry, MBE
The Blog about Chipsticks for Dying Matters Week by Claire Henry MBE
What’s important to me - chip sticks! Chip sticks what am I talking about? Over the last year, like many I have experienced loss. This has ranged from loss of being able to see my friends, go out to visit historical sites, which I love, to the death of my wonderful Dad. All had an impact on me, and each are linked to the other. This last year has given me a real jolt and got me thinking, what is important to me? Spending time with those you love, saying “I love you”, relaying those shared experiences or days out that seemed quiet ordinary at the time, but have now become important as they are remembered with laughter and tears. What is important is not the big things and buying lots of stuff. It’s going out for coffee and having a conversation, about nothing in particular, but meaningful, nevertheless. The walks out, the socially distance conversations at the door. These are all important to me as I was not able to have those precious days out with my Dad with just the two of us which meant so much. Never did I think that delivering those essentials and little treats would be so important to me. Skype became a lifeline, because I could see faces and get into what seemed like silly little rituals, such as asking what they were having for tea and what the weather would be like, with Dad always eating the chip sticks he loved. Despite his poor appetite, he went through so many bags, as one particular brand was his favourite, and his eyes would light up at the thought of those chip sticks. Now looking back at those experiences of my Dad hitting the wrong buttons and appearing with some interesting and amusing backgrounds. That time spent talking everyday was important to me as I can now look back and think we did use that time well and made the most of it. As a family we could see Dad’s loss of energy, not wanting to get up until later in the day, finding it exhausting to have long conversations, because Dad did like to chat. Seeing these losses has made me think about the ultimate loss of my Dad. With Dad’s 85th birthday coming up we were not able to have a party, due to Covid restrictions, but we managed a small socially distance gathering of 6 outside. We found a local pub that did takeaway Sunday lunch, and a neighbour made a cake, so we were able to make the most of it. Little did we know that Dad would die a month to the day in hospital, not surrounded by his family. Not being with him, was another loss to bear. We have comfort in knowing that we spoke to Dad only hours before he died and a day after we found a message Dad had left on the phone which will stay with me forever. It is like he knew, with the last words we heard from him were “night night”. When some one you love dies all sorts of things play out in your mind and losses are multiple. But in loss you realise what is important. With all the restrictions relating to funerals we could only have a small number of people at the service, so many friends we are not able to be there, which was hard for us all. We knew that many wanted to join so we did what many other families have done, we it live streamed the funeral. It really helped us as a family to know that people were joining us in our shared grief and loss. Dad had lived for over 40 years in the same village when we came out of the house and travelled through what is a long village and stopped outside the church. It felt like the whole village had come out to say farewell. Dad would have loved this and it made me realise how moving it was for people to show they care by standing and giving up their time. That was important to me.
The losses I felt were so many; not be able to have the conversations and the fun we once had. I never thought I would feel the loss of Dad munching on his chip sticks. The losses hit me in all sorts of ways, but as we have all be hearing grief and loss is the price we pay for love. As the year passes, and we head towards the anniversary of Dad’s death, I reflect on what’s important to me. I know it is spending time with friends, having, and sharing memories and even eating the chip sticks my father would have eaten, had he still been with us.