“My dad was gracious and generous, and loved life”

Writer and speaker Michele Guinness is married to Peter, a vicar, and they divide their time between their parish in Gillingham and their home in France.

My Dad was short for a man, but what he lacked in stature he made up for in character. Gracious and generous, full of integrity, wit and charm, he was a committed, caring doctor whose patients loved him, and a warm and wonderful father who believed his girls could do anything.

Even when I became a Christian - a shock for a Jewish Dad - then subsequently ‘married out’, to a man who became a minister, it never diminished his love for me. When I told him that he would have his name in the official Guinness family tree and pedigree, as my husband-to-be was a great, great grandson of the famous Irish brewer, he quipped back, “And did you have to pick a poor relative?”
My conversion could not part us, but dementia did, when, in his late fifties, a series of minor brain haemorrhages drove him into a world where I could no longer reach him. I thought that if I fought hard enough I could bring him back. But I was no match for this particular enemy. He who said he’d always be there for me, abandoned me, not as he used to pull the sticking plasters from my cuts and grazes in one tear-jerking, hair-removing, sweep, as doctors do, but bit by bit, pulling and dragging and prolonging the agony.

I wondered whether he knew how we nursed and cared for him, as he had nursed and cared for so many? I hope he didn’t. I hope the disease was merciful to him, even if it wasn’t to us. For I grieved as he died, year after year.

I would want for nothing, he said, but now, even 25 years since his death, I want whenever I think of him. I want his pride in the grandchildren. And in me. For he never knew I would fulfil his dream for me and work for the NHS one day - even if it wasn’t as a doctor.

And yet, after his death, I found the real him again, singing by my bed, accompanying himself on the ukulele, jangling the coins in his pocket as we stopped at the sweetie shop on the way home from school, buying the teachers cream cakes on school sports days, playing cricket in the street, dancing the twist when it was the latest rage, savouring good red wine, admiring a fine pair of female legs. What a man he was!

I find him in my ideals, in the wisdom he passed on to me. “People must always come before principles, for without love people of principle are simply fanatics.” “Do as you would be done by.”
“Balance in all things. Always examine both sides of the story.”
Simple, simple, homespun truths. But he lived them, so I learnt them.

Most of all, I find him in the way I understand the father love of God. And that has been the greatest gift of all.   

“I had the privilege of leading my dad to Christ”

Jewellery designer Norma Murrain runs her own business, Silverfish Jewellery, and is based in Birmingham

I’ll never forget my dad. He was a real free spirit and lived life his way. My parents split up when I waas 16, but his knock on the door was so familiar, as he visited us every day until I left home when I was 21.

He was 83 when he died (in August 2005) and I had the privilege of leading him to Christ just a few months before. The heavens opened that day in his hospital room as he accepted Jesus as Lord of his life. His shouts of “Praise you Jesus” were some of the last words he spoke before he died after a series of mini strokes.

In West Indian culture, the family all get together for nine nights after the death to mourn together and to celebrate the life of the deceased. It was a tense time for me and my four sisters as we all claimed to dad’s favourite daughter.

My eldest sister said: “ I know I was his favourite because he always gave me money when I needed it”, another sister said the same. One sister claimed she was his favourite because he bought her her first car and Patsy, who is a year older than me and in a wheelchair due to a chronic illness, said she was dad’s favourite because  he turned up every Sunday to push her wheelchair to church, even though he never stayed for the service.

I thought I was his favourite because when he was sick, he came to live with me and I looked after him in the months before he died. The truth is that he had an amazing ability to make each of us feel really special.

Nothing makes a daughter feel stronger or safer than knowing that she is loved by her father. It reminds me of the way God treats each one of us. He meets us where we are and gives us special and unique gifts for his glory.

On the morning that my dad died, I got a phone call round 5am. The voice on the phone said, “Your Dad’s fine, he’s sitting up and eating”. I said, “Thank you, that’s good news” and went back to sleep. At 7am, the phone rang again. This time a voice said: “I’m very sorry, but your dad passed away at 5am this morning and I’ve been trying to call you since then”. “That’s not possible”, I said, but through my tears, I had a sense of comfort and peace. I knew my dad was forgiven and resting in God’s peace.  I believe that earlier call was a message from an angel to reassure me that my dad was ok.

My dad loved to dance and sing, he was the life and soul of every party, and I look forward to dancing with my dad in heaven.

* To see the latest collection of Silverfish jewellery, visit www.silverfishjewellery.co.uk or call 0121 554 4575