Ruth, one of our befrienders, shares a story of a continuing bond with her dead husband and how a pair of old shoes became a connection for a little boy to his father.

‘Mum, Mum! I need some old rags to wear for my drama class,’ my son Tim said to me as he came home from school one day.

‘I’m going to the loft, to get some of dad’s clothes’. Later that evening we both went up to the loft and went through the six large white plastic boxes that I had put away there a few months after Tim’s dad had died. Tim was three years old when he died and I knew that I wanted to put things away for both him and his sister, so that they could see them when they had wanted to, when they were older and asked what their dad was like. I had been slightly selective in what I had kept in the box (some horrendous striped tops that I had never liked had been quickly gifted to charity), but on the whole this was a fair reflection and collection of their dad’s things. My kids had known the boxes were there and we had peeked occasionally but had never spent the time looking through the boxes before now.

So Tim and I looked through and after pulling out tops which sparked some stories and memories of what their dad had done wearing those, we found a white shirt with a fine, small blue check which Tim claimed was suitable for making a rag shirt from. I left him in the loft for a bit and then we all came downstairs. The next day he went to school with his newly found ‘prop’ for his drama class.

A few weeks later we were on the hunt for new black school shoes for Tim. It was the beginning of half term and we had a day planned to find some. Tim had a clear idea of what he wanted, ones with a pointed toe, but as his feet were wide with a high arch this was a very tricky ask. In fact, I seemed to recall his dad having the same shaped feet (but perhaps not the same demands for fashion that his son has). Anyway, the day of shoe shopping didn’t prove to be that fruitful. Although we found some that fitted the brief, I was not prepared to pay the £120 asking price for school shoes!! We went home and resolved that he could wear the black trainers that he already had and I would write a note to school to explain.

However, when the first day back to school came, Tim came downstairs in his school uniform wearing a pair of black school shoes. I looked at him and said, ‘Where did you get those from?’ Tim said, ‘They’re Dad’s, I found them in the boxes in the loft when we went up and brought them down.’ And you know, they fitted him perfectly, allowing for his large wide, high arched feet and they were the right shoe size for him. Suddenly I realised that after 11 years of his dad being dead, Tim was literally for that moment walking in his father’s shoes.

For me there were many mixed emotions in that moment, a sense of ‘wow, his feet are actually that big now’, a sense of suddenly remembering a bit about what Tim’s dad was like, a sense of thinking maybe I wasn’t that crazy for having kept some of his dad’s stuff from all those years ago, a sense of what a privilege it was to share this moment with Tim – his memories of his dad are almost non-existent but this was a really tangible way of them both connecting.

The continuing bonds that we have for the person who has died work themselves out in different ways as we find a way of connecting and seeing the significance with these people in our lives, and seeing how the legacy of that life lives on in the people who are bereaved and left behind. I see some of his dad’s great attributes in Tim, from his outlook on life, even in the way he walks or rather bounds along a road, and I have also seen some of the things that leave me with my head in my hands, especially a love of wearing white socks that I really don’t like and a cackling laugh that audibly fills a room. It is our choice how we look at these things, but for me it’s those little bits of their dad that live on and it has been my pleasure to nurture this in my children over the years.

And for you: what do you have both physically and in your memories/stories that you can continue the bond with the person who has died?

What stories do you share and with whom?

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