On Monday I joined the rest of my large family to say “goodbye” to my Dad. He died in his sleep on Christmas Eve and on Monday we all gathered in Brighton to remember him and lay him to rest in a natural burial ground up on the Downs above Brighton. It was, of course, a very sad and difficult day in so many ways: seeing Dad arriving in the coffin in the hearse suddenly made it all very real and standing up in front of the family sharing some our favourite memories of him was a really difficult thing to do. Amongst the inevitable and entirely appropriate sadness and grief though there were moments of joy and laughter, especially as we met after the burial to remember Dad and all that he meant to each one of us in the family.
As I have reflected on the experience of Monday, I am reminded of a really famous passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Just now, for my family, we are experiencing a tough time where mourning and tears are the order of the day, but I know that there will be times ahead when we will again feel like laughing and dancing. This is normal; this is life and this is all of our shared experiences. I miss my Dad and I know that I will always miss him, but I can also remember with thankfulness and gratitude all that he did for me and my brothers as we were growing up. I shall forever be grateful that my Dad and my Mum (who sadly died when I was 13) chose to adopt me into their family when I was only a few weeks old; I shall forever be grateful for the love
and care that they both (and my step-mother as well) showed me and I will always be proud to call Barry Walter Last my Dad. Cheers Dad and rest in peace.
And now? Well, life goes on, of course. I return to being a husband, a Dad, a stepson, a brother, an uncle and, of course, to being a Headmaster. I return to the challenges and privileges of leading Kingsley and trying to ensure that all of your children receive the best possible support from us as they grow up. I know that we are not perfect; but we will continue to strive to do our very best to support your children and educate them well.
If I learnt anything from my Dad is that I should always treat people as I would like to be treated by them. I hope that this is a motto for life that we can all agree on!