On this day 57 years ago my father died, leaving a void far greater than I have understood for most of my life.
Mark Warburton was a policeman. A good one by all accounts. He had a great sense of humour, was an accomplished actor, a good cricketer, fisherman, loved the bush, and he was my Dad. He was the sun that this moon revolved around for nine years, until one day shortly before Christmas he fell, downed by a massive heart attack at the age of 49.
For many years I refused to believe he really was dead. I comforted myself with the thought that he was MI5, working undercover, that his death was a ruse, and one day I would look up and there he would be. The febrile imagination that is born of wanting a world not of make believe, but of don’t believe.
Recently I attended a counselling course, which presented an interesting take on Family Trees. Out of the blue I returned to that day so long ago and was astonished at the anger I felt. Not at God, not at anyone but my father.
He had been ill, had a heart condition brought on by pleurisy from fighting multiple fires in Mbabane one particularly bad winter, and been told by the cardiologist that he had to take it easy. Did he listen? Oh no! He was a Brit, and Brits don’t give in to anything or anyone. He was about duty, about stiff upper lip and carrying on. He was a product of the war so tough it out was how you did it.
And so he died.
What of us? My Mum and I? How were we supposed to deal with this?
As my thoughts focussed on that time I realised that my emptiness when I looked for him was not so much about the physical loss, but about the sinking feeling that we were not important enough for him to make the effort to live. Ouch! His duty, his pride, his determination to show no weakness mattered more than his wife and daughter.
This man whose memory I loved so much, because I didn’t know him. Most of what I know about my dad is from other people and the odd memory, odd feeling of safety that lingers. How could I have such traitorous thoughts about him? This person who I had enshrined in my heart for so many decades.
I knew I had to deal with this, and fast. I needed to unpeel layers of hurt, of deception, of unforgiveness from my heart.
In Hebrews 12 vv 14,15 Paul writes:
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:
Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
This is to do with forgiveness, allowing the hurt to dissolve into the love that Jesus the Christ offers, and walking forward in freedom. Any root of bitterness, the nascence of which is always in hurt, in blame, in sin, defiles not only you, but those with whom you come into contact, so it is important to check regularly, make sure you have released anyone and anything that might linger in the shadows of your heart, putting you in unholy bondage.
Be blessed this day as you make peace with your past.