November is always the cruellest month. For me. Not for Harry Potter. At Hogwarts, November heralds the heroic moment just before the monster gets slain and everyone gets to sit down at a fabulous banquet. For me, it’s never a good time, because it’s also the month my father died.
Like most days, he left for work. Like most days, he kissed my mom. Like most days, we thought he’d be coming back. He didn’t. A pilot, he died from a massive heart attack in his early forties. He was reading a book while his co-pilot flew the plane. At least he was doing something he loved.
I was sixteen, my sisters nine and six respectively. Losing a parent at such an early age has left an indelible, but distinct mark on each of us – and although the scars have faded, they are still there if you probe hard enough. Anyone who has lost a parent, a lover, a sibling or a child will understand what I mean.
Harry Potter lost his parents too, and in one of his adventures, he finds The Mirror of Erised, a magic mirror that shows the ‘deepest and most desperate desires of ones heart’. He stares at that mirror for a long time, because in its reflection, he sees his parents as if they were alive. I’ve always found that particular piece of the story very moving. No piece of shiny glass would bring my dad back.
What I didn’t realise was that eventually, I too would find a magic mirror of sorts. An acquaintance sent us a YouTube video link which shows footage of my dad. It’s part of an old TV documentary filming the Shackleton bomber. It’s extraordinary, because we never had a video camera, so we only have photos of my dad. I can’t really describe how it felt to see him on that clip – captured in time, but very much present, very much alive. It made me feel happy and incredibly sad at the same moment.
So…this is my own reflection for today. The people we love and lose are never far from our hearts. The magic is in the remembering.