After a series of prayers, hymns and readings, my sister began her eulogy. She did ask if I wanted to say a few words about our late father but I politely turned her request down. I was far too afraid that my few words would turn into the emotional revelation of my life. I would not be able to find any kind words to say, my anger and hurt would be on display and I was sure I’d be removed from the church. No, I wanted to witness the sham for all that it was.
It was already very clear, from the previous speeches and readings, what these people thought of my father. I was not expecting to be any more shocked than I already was. But my sister’s eulogy soon brought about the horror again.
She stood sombrely at the lectern, resting her pages on the stand. Her voice was gentle; she seemed calm and read her well-rehearsed speech with confidence. She did not appear as the sister I had witnessed over the past few years.
She began by briefly describing my father’s childhood for example: where he grew up, his college years and his role in his family as being the ‘gentle’ one. She gave the congregation an insight into the life they never knew. During this, I had to bite my tongue, stopping myself from giving them the insight into the actual and factual life they never knew he led. My sister however, kept up his pretence. It was her pretence too, her fantasy world that they had both created but I was living in the cold reality, faced with the truth of what kind of man he really was.
In her words he was a “quiet, thoughtful man”, three words that couldn’t be further from his genuine character. I would have never described him as “thoughtful” and he certainly wasn’t a man. No real man would treat their daughter the way he treated me. Mutters of agreement echoed around me as my sister continued to praise my abuser with affectionate words. My mother turned back to me in horror at the realisation of my sister’s devotion and utmost respect for him.
I knew it was coming, I was expecting it to be a shocker although most of it still took me by surprise, I was hoping she would erase my worries not highlight them. I also wasn’t expecting the room to be completely full. It seemed as though my father had fooled a lot of people.
My sister had clearly researched my father’s upbringing but only revealed the sweeter moments. There was no talk of how jealous of his sisters he was, or his shaky relationship with his mother, those memories were left out.
She referred to his final years (those with her in his life) as a much more peaceful time in his existence. When she had her second child in 2011 and their relationship had been rebuilding for a year, she spoke of the time her husband had to return to work after his paternity leave had finished. My sister was still in need of support. She wouldn’t have asked my mother who had taken my father’s sorry place in my sister’s heart and become the enemy. She wouldn’t have asked me. We were estranged for several years due to my growing bond with my mother. I was venomous in her eyes, a supporter of the new enemy. So she accepted my father’s sweet, generous offer to look after and visit her every day for two weeks. She described him as a “family man”, looking after the baby so that she could have a nap, reading his grandson bedtime stories, bringing her decadent foods like olives, pate and breads, homemade spaghetti bolognese and sweet treats to satisfy her every craving.
I could not believe it. This was not generosity. This was the way my father worked. I had been in the same position many years ago and I also fell for the act. Money and gifts do not equate love.
Although shocking, the whole eulogy was quite interesting to listen to. Especially hearing such a different character interpretation of the abuser from a woman who once saw exactly what I see now. Some of the quotes I noted from her eulogy were:
He was true to his word – yes, in many ways he was. When he promised that I’d regret speaking to him disrespectfully, he was right. I did regret it. The abuse that followed after my clear belligerence was deserved in his eyes. Was he true to his words when he promised to be my sole carer? When he told the court and gave his word on his honour that he would look after me? No, he wasn’t. He betrayed the courts and he betrayed me.
He had a strong work ethic – do you mean he was obsessed with his work and that he needed to be wealthy in order to gain respect? He had no ethics. To be ethical, you require morals, principles and decency. He had none of those.
He liked the simple thing in life – was the one quote that seriously made me let out a little laugh, the simple things, honestly? He loved extravagance, decadence, he loved luxury. Yet nothing could ever make him truly happy.
She made a good point during her speech; she admitted to be the mirror image of the abuser. She too had his work ethic. She was certainly obsessed with her career; work was one of her biggest stresses and not in a challenging or stimulating way. She struggled in many ways; she was never willing to take any responsibility for any mistakes made in her life, it was always somebody else’s fault. Sound familiar? Of course it does, she is just the same as him.
She also spoke of them both loving order and precision in their lives. His love of order equalled his O.C.D. Order was something that made my life hell during those bitter twelve years. I’m an organised person; I like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. But I can see that events can happen in life that changes order. It shows greater character if you are able to adapt to change. My father could not do that.
Then came the tears, the break in her voice that showed a glimpse of genuine emotion. The abuser had won. He had succeeded in convincing her that he was a decent man. That it was my mother and I who were evil. He had won. She did not fully cry, I looked for it but I could not see any tears. I thought I would see an essence of emotion, I thought I would see an open heart but it remained firmly closed. The barriers went back up as she cleared her throat. As she spoke the words that echo in me to this day, my sister pulled it back together. A week before he died, in the comfort of her presence, my father told her,
“It has been like another life”.
The congregation let out a mutual compassionate sigh while a single tear fell silently onto my lap.
How much clearer could he be than that? He had her back, the one he had really wanted. My sister had finally returned to him.
“You have left me with a precious gift, so Daddy, I thank you.”
I brushed the empty tear away and took a deep breath. He was not worth my tears, he had hers.
Plenty of others spoke in my father’s honour. Laughable comments continued to be made:
- He was able to apologise
- Had a very gracious nature
- Greatly missed by everyone
- Sense of humour
- Kept as fit as possible
- Generous to his friends
I let these comments wash over me. Let them have their false memories!
After two hours the service was over. It felt like the longest two hours of my life and unfortunately the day was not over. My friend had to go back to work but David remained by my side. As the congregation mingled with each other, I made my way to my mother. She was both emotional and disturbed. She remarked how she felt like an imposter at a stranger’s funeral, I felt that too. There were faces that we recognised and many we didn’t. A few of his neighbours came to say ‘Hello’. They gave their condolences to me, little did they know my relief and comfort in his death.
My sister and her husband remained at the other end of the hall. My mother and I were definitely at the bottom of the hierarchy. We were happy to be given that position. We received a few polite regards and condolences, some from people we once knew and some from total strangers. His church friends enclosed around my sister, consoling her, hugging her and praising her beautiful words about the abuser. I stood alone with only my mother and husband by my side.
Eventually more people came over. One questioned my relationship to the abuser.
“Are you his second daughter?” she said in disbelief.
“Yes.” I responded, wondering why this woman looked so confused at the idea that he had another child.
My sister had mentioned in her eulogy that my parents had a second child but that was the only reference to me in the entire funeral.
I was an unknown.
Conclusion to follow tomorrow.