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Let us remember you blonde

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By Paul CooksonLiteracy Time PLUS Poet-in-residence

My father died very suddenly in January of this year. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died within a week of diagnosis. His hair had always been blonde but in hospital it had turned grey almost overnight. This was the poem I read at his funeral … Paul Cookson

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Let us remember you blonde

Let us remember you blonde Seventy seven and ten months and still blonde

Not seventy seven and nearly eleven months And grey and fading

Surrounded by wires Punctured by drips Smothered by the ill fitting oxygen mask Deafened by the silence and the beeper

We have heard the doctor’s words We know their meaning We know that this is real But are numb

And yet, seeing you there, weak and weary, Grey and tired – we do not want to remember you this way

So let us remember you blonde Blonde and smiling and cheating at cards Blonde and laughing playing football in the garden Blonde and unashamed in your string vest Blonde and mucky, down the field Feeding the livestock, fettling the shed or mowing the grass Blonde and relaxed, wellies off in the conservatory With a cup of tea and at least one of mum’s baggin’ time cakes Blonde and victorious in the Annual Boxing Day Family Golf Down The Hall Challenge With the putting machine we bought you one Christmas That seems a lifetime ago

That is now, a lifetime ago

Blonde and thoughtful in your favourite chair Reading the books we all lent you Or answering the questions on Countdown, Eggheads or The Weakest Link You were never our weakest link But it is goodbye

But let us remember you blonde And strong with the vitality of life Hands like spades Belief unshakeable Faith unmoveable The husband, father and grandfather Who would do what is right Simply because you thought it was right And you usually were Even when you were wrong

Some say you did not suffer fools gladly But that is wrong You suffered all our foolishness – gladly Principled but practical You stood by us, with us In times good, bad or worse

Uncomplicated, straight forward Your yes was yes And your no was definitely no Single-minded – stubborn maybe But this simplicity your strength Seemingly indestructible We thought you’d go on for ever

And as we struggle for strength Struggle to make sense Struggle to hold on We will not remember you grey and dying

But blonde, defiant, strong and smiling A rock we have all clinged to A foundation we have all built upon A presence that will remain An influence that will not fade A voice we will never forget

We will always remember you blonde We will always remember you We always remember Always

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