I just so happened to be on Facebook as Steph posted her beautiful idea on the contributor’s page for one of the writers to share an “Inspired by . . .” article about their dad before Father’s Day!
Just moments after, I posted my reply: “Yes, me, absolutely.” My heart started to pound and my face flushed. I looked down trying to gain my composure and yet all I could see was my swift and steady commitment to write a tribute to my dad. And then . . . my mind turned to mush. A hot swell of tears filled my eyes and I began to feel that ever-lurking lump grow in my throat.
Crap, what have I done? How do I even start to honour my sweet dad?
Some of you may be wondering why this thirty-year-old Brit can’t seem to pull it together to write a simple, loving tribute to her Daddy for this Father’s Day – and you’re right . . . it is very easy (in one sense) to gush about my father. You see, he was a pillar of strength – a man of integrity who impacted not only my life, but so many others like no other earthly man I can think of. But the problem is, fifteen years ago my dad died a sudden death of cancer, and our family life, as Mum and three girls, was completely turned upside down, ripped apart, and shaken to the core. For all you Austen fans out there, as Edward Ferrars of Sense and Sensability so aptly states: “My dear Fanny, they’ve just lost their father. Their lives will never be the same again.”
And indeed our lives are not.
So I swallowed the lump, dried my eyes, took a breath, took another breath, and started to write. I wrote to him about how much I adore him, how I remember him serving anyone that came into our home, as if they were the King or Queen of England. How he loved my mum so deeply. How he would buy a pack of donuts from Asda and, being England, there were only four in the pack . . . and he’d always give them to Mum and us three girls, and he’d go without. How he saw I had a side splitting ache from afar, on the final stretch of my championship cross country race, and he came and ran along side of me so that I would still make a good time and beat the person in front of me. And how every day my heart aches to not have him in my life – not to have had him walk me down the aisle and given me away to my incredible husband. And it kills a part of me to see my kiddies growing up without knowing the great man that would have been “Poppa AJ” to their little souls.
I didn’t want the post to turn into a gush fest and it began to creep that way and, to be fair, no one wants to see the sob and snot fest that would have been for me. So, I thought fast; I emailed a bunch of people, ranging from young people, to people in their seventies, asking them to share some memories/thoughts about my sweet dad so you guys could share in the beauty of who AJ Parrott was and still is to so many people. I hope you enjoy getting to know my dad through these memories and pictures.
One point that keeps being mentioned in the tributes from people was how much of a great man he was. And you know what? He really was. Dad, I miss you. So deeply.
“My memory of AJ was his wonderful sense of humour. I can still hear the laughter. It would fill the room.” – Joy Hutchens
“I remember his fabulous laugh and him picking me up when I fell off of one of your bikes because I was scared of your boxer dog, Bilbo, one day when I came to tea! And all of the church picnics we did, which he came to, were always filled with his positive energy. He was so strong and vibrant and happy. Your family was always very special to our family and above all, I remember how he doted on you girls . . . and your mum, Delia. You really meant the world to him and it’s lovely to look back and recognise that . . . even after all of these years. He was a very special guy and really touched all those that loved him.” – Gemma East
“There he is!! What a great man. AJ . . . He taught me how to stir scrambled eggs properly, called me ‘Rebecca the Bedwrecker’, treated me like I was part of the family, brought home Rabbit toys from work that had little blue t-shirts on, beeped the horn when approaching a sharp corner in the countryside . . . I could on and on!!” – Rebecca Coates xxxxx
“I do have a favourite memory of your dad. It was when I was probably about 12 and my parents were away for the weekend, so my dog, Bronte, and I were staying with your family. I remember us sitting round for Sunday lunch and your dad kept making jokes how ‘Bronte-saurus’ and then he would mock laugh and real laugh at the joke each time. A very fond memory of a man who liked to laugh.” – Katie Foster
“What a great man! Nice photo!” – Chris Foster
“Apart from being best friends, AJ always made me laugh and somehow he brought a whole side of my personality that often lay dormant – the fun loving side. A larger than life person, full of fun and integrity.” – Bob Alexander
“There was a homeless guy in the street, Dad was walking with us, but then 5 mins later he wasn’t, so we walked back to see where he was and he’d bought food for this guy. That was our dad.
He loved that you (Rachel) were into netball and in many ways enjoyed the relationship and interaction with you at the back of our house with your netball rin and sport more than he had the chance with Anna and me. I remember him yelling, “that’s my daughter!” at the top of his voice at a netball game of yours. Well, if I wasn’t there I sure remember everyone talking about it! He was very very proud of you, Rachel.
Dad would enjoy doing things for people whether it was fixing shelves in our room or helping with homework. He was in every way active in our lives. Perhaps this is how he expressed his love! Any difficult conversations he wouldn’t shy away from because his love was powerful and its strength meant that whatever happened he could convince you that the relationship you had with him was solid! Dad would also play and talk to us like we were grown up; he never patronized us and talked to us about spirituality and hardship as if we were on a level with him… I think I understand kids the way I do because of him.”
-Eleanor Flavel (Rachel’s sister)
“My memories of him are all so positive. I loved the deep, throaty laugh that used to ring out from wherever he was standing – and he brought such a breath of fresh air and life to the church when he was made an elder. He never failed to be just himself and allowed others to do the same. So fondly missed…” – Gill Marris
“I so admired the fact that there was nothing namby pamby about the love between AJ and Delia. They could be fiery with each other but loved each other dearly.” – Anthony Reed
“My memories of your dad, my strong and dependable husband, full of love and strong will. A faithful man who always wanted the best for us. He wanted to do right and follow the Lord. To provide for us. To see us whole, speaking into our lives even though we didn’t always want to hear! He had a servant’s heart, always putting others first. He used to say and lived out to the end, to put God first, others next then yourself. He will always be alive in our hearts.” -Delia Karen Moorey (Rachel’s mum)
“Your Dad’s laugh was just amazing’! – Lesley-Anne Nelson x x x
“Fond memories of your family holidays here in Cornwall with your influential father, AJ. One of many things he taught me was how to pack a car for several girls on holiday!!
Oh . . . I seem to remember this included a lot of shouting and head scratching on his part!” – Spencer Reed
“AJ was the warmest, kindest uncle. He had a huge heart and his family was his world. I will always remember his strength, not just in his stature (he could easily throw me around in the air with one arm!) but also is his amazing character. I will always admire him for that.
I remember many happy sunny days in Devon, building epic sandcastles on the beach. Uncle AJ would be bright red from the sun and the girls all covered up to protect their fair skin – quite ironic as he was almost strawberry-like at the end of the day!
The Parrott’s certainly could rig-up a solid windbreak. Uncle AJ would build a fortress around his family in-between the rocks.
Our house in Devon still echoes with AJ’s wonderful laughter and he is with us most when we are walking the beach, cliffs or rowing a boat across the river.” – Lucy Cheeseman
“I always remember your dad being happy and laughing all the time.
Having a church youth night, your dad got us all blindfolded and made us taste different food with no clue what was on it. I remember that one was cold baked beans and I thought it was so mean of your dad to trick us!
I remember what huge support your dad was to mine when he was ill the first time. He always had time for him and would often come and pray with him. It was the faith of my dad and of people like your dad that got my dad and mum through the first time of his illness.
Your dad’s faith was truly remarkable just like him and like all of you girls and mum.” – Teresa Riley
Anthony John Parrott
October 7, 1950 – November 14, 1996