My father died on the 4th of this November. By some strange coincidence a character in Poet’s Cottage dies at the same time. I’m not surprised because the creation of Poet’s Cottage and my father’s own journey with his cancer ran parallel lines at times. Even as I sat at his deathbed holding his hand, I was checking final proofs. My father, who supported my writing so much, would have approved.

My father was a huge inspiration on my writing and shared my love of words and nature. 

My most grateful thanks to all the Gibson Ward in South Hobart Nursing Staff, Dr Robert McIntosh and Millington Funeral Home for their loving care.

I know my father’s spirit survived his physical death. I will always look for signs from him and have had a couple already including the most remarkable dream of a blue butterfly the night following his passing.

On the 8th of November, four nights after my father’s death, I woke at 3.28 am and wrote the following lines in my journal.

Communion, time for communion, the moon is waxing. Full, round and glowing. Like bones or the eye of a benevolent god. All ships must come to port. I am not afraid. For you are here. The moon outside the window is whispering not the end of the tale but the beginning. Singing the ancient lullaby to ensure a smooth and sacred passage over uncharted waters to the land of the ancestors and the eye of the moon. I do not sleep. I think of all the great ships who must come to port, the first and last breath and the sweet moments in between. Between the bones, the rigging, lies sacred flesh, a will to live and a blackbird drinking in a birdbath. It is 3.28 am. My father at 4 am took his last breath and swallowed the luminous moon.

Thank you to all the kind people who sent me emails and love and my friends who realised where I had disappeared to. Thank you to Pan Macmillan for support and of course my wonderful agent, Selwa Anthony. It meant a lot to my family that my father was so happy with all the good news surrounding Poet’s Cottage and my other book being picked up before he died.

There are no goodbyes between my father and myself. At the same time, I feel shattered and grief-stricken and thankful that I am checking the proofs of Poet’s Cottage. Words, stories, books have always been my refuge. I will hide myself away in the writing shed and hope my heart will start to beat a little stronger as the days pass.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

34 Responses

  1. Louise Cusack November 14, 2011 / 12:26 am

    What a beautiful, poignant post, Josephine. I’m so glad you had the opportunity to spend that time with your father at the end. And when I see blue butterflies now I’ll think of him too.

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 12:03 am

      Thank you, Louise. The blue butterfly is very special, isn’t it? I’m not alone in seeing the blue butterfly. I will always be looking out for them now. xx

  2. Stephanie November 14, 2011 / 12:27 am

    What a beautiful and heartfelt post. xoxo

  3. Julieanne November 14, 2011 / 12:31 am

    Oh Josie, I’m so sorry to read the news. I haven’t had a chance to tell Mum yet but I know she will send her condolences too. It sounds like you and I have had rather similar experiences, especially with all the symbology and also knowing that our dads’ spirits are still with us.

    Please give my love to your mum and also I hope that Daisy and David are coping okay too. Lots of love xox

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 12:06 am

      Thank you, Julieanne. David and Daisy doing fine. David has been rather a wonderful brick taking over all of Daisy’s activities and doing the school runs for me. Both of them are worn out! Much love to your mum and take care of yourself. xx

  4. Annarosa Berman November 14, 2011 / 12:31 am

    Dear Josephine,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this beautiful piece. I am sorry for your loss.

    Charles’ father passed away last week, which makes your words all the more poignant.

    The people whom we’ve loved, and who have helped to form us, live in and through us forever. For me, that’s a comforting thought.

    Love from Annarosa.

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 12:07 am

      Annarosa, such a beautiful and wise thought but exactly the sort of thought I’ve come to expect from Ms Annarosa. My best sympathies to Charles (and yourself) on your loss. Take Care my lovely book glam. xx

  5. jane November 14, 2011 / 12:35 am

    Love to you and your family,.. I dreamed of the blue triangle butterfly the night before my grandfathers death,..and when he died, a blue triangle butterfly appeared and hovered for a while outside the window,.. funnily enough, when the family is discussing something important,.a blue triangle butterfly often floats past for a listen! xx

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 12:10 am

      Dear Jane, thank you for your comment and how wonderful to hear from someone who has also had the blue butterfly experience. My girlfriend was emotional when she read my post because she had picked out flowers for me on the weekend and was drawn to the bunch that had a blue butterfly on them without knowing about my dream. The signs are always there. xx

  6. gondalgirl November 14, 2011 / 1:12 am

    your are in my thoughts xx

  7. Katherine Howell November 14, 2011 / 1:31 am

    Beautiful post.
    Thinking of you. Big hugs and lots of love.

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 1:54 am

      Thank you, Katherine. Returning your hug and really appreciate your email and message here. I look forward to picking up your latest baby. xx

  8. Stephanie O'Connor November 14, 2011 / 2:10 am

    My heart is sharing your loss, your Mother and I were class mates in school and I am so proud that Father and I share the same ancestors.
    Having endured the loss of my only child just four months ago, I know how you will look for those “signs” and how you will see your Father in so many things around you. The spirit life is so unexplained and mysterious, but it exists, I have experienced it and you have with your dreams and will again when you least expect it……R.I. P an exceptional man.
    Stephanie O’Connor ( Pennicott)

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 1:56 am

      Thank you, Stephanie. My deepest sympathies again on the loss of your son. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts on this very sad time for you. xx

  9. Anita Pennicott November 14, 2011 / 5:48 am

    What a family the Pennicotts are, always thinking of others, having everything organized so that they do not burden others.. Time will heal the pain you are feeling now, but the memories will last a life time.

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 1:57 am

      Hello Anita, yes the Pennicotts are an amazing tribe. Thanks for your lovely words and insight. xx

  10. jason nahrung November 14, 2011 / 7:38 am

    A beautiful farewell message, Jo; lots of love and kind thoughts from we two.

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 1:59 am

      Thanks, lovely Jason. My warmest love back to you and your lovely Scorpion wife. Her book is on my Christmas list as a present for a couple of people. Thanks for stopping by, Jason, dear heart. xx

  11. diane kallend November 14, 2011 / 10:40 am

    Josie the ever thoughtful poet who all ways knows how to express her innermost soul thought emotions in a way as to inspire all those around her….I truly believe your connection to your dad is only a thought away as you breathe life into the memory of his physical being that has now ascended into the great oneness of love and life……love ya….diane

  12. sleepydwarf November 14, 2011 / 11:43 am

    A beautiful post. Thinking of you x

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 7:05 am

      Thanks Sleepydwarf, it was difficult to leave Hobart this time around. The city was shimmering with magic. xx (okay, I say that every time but I do mean it!)

  13. gambottoburke November 14, 2011 / 10:23 pm

    Your father had the most beautiful death, surrounded by language and by love. To have a daughter like you: a joy.

    How are you feeling today?

    All our love to you in this difficult time,
    Antonella, Alex & Bethesda

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 7:08 am

      Antonella, thank you for those beautiful words. I know you have been in those dark woods and your words always were like dark shimmering stones that helped others to navigate their way through grief and pain. I am feeling strangely silent inside today. Keeping busy and a lot empty but for the moment all the wild emotions have abated. For the moment… Thank you as always for your love and inspiration.Much love to your beautiful family. xx

      • gambottoburke November 16, 2011 / 11:27 pm

        There will be more wild emotions to come in about – oh, six months’ time. First shock, then numbness. Once the newness of the death falls away, you will be left with the loss. And then you will heal, and then when you think of your darling father you will know only joy. But in the interim, go slow slow slow … sleep a lot, eat a lot, walk a lot, hold your fragrant Daisy. And know that your father is with you. Much love, Antonella

    • josephinetalepeddler November 18, 2011 / 10:58 am

      Your words and wisdom are always so beautiful, Antonella. I’ve mused over them often today. I just hope I don’t eat a lot! There has been a lot of numbness and disbelief. Somehow it seems as if Dad is just next door and there’s no way he could be gone. Thank you as always for being so exquisite and eloquent.xx

  14. pinry November 15, 2011 / 12:09 am

    so sorry for your loss of your inspiring and supportive father. Wishing you comfort in the words he loved, and grace to see you through the many dark days. your words are a beautiful tribute. thinking of you, jxx

    • josephinetalepeddler November 15, 2011 / 7:09 am

      Thank you, Jennifer. It is always wonderful to see you. Much love to you back and hope that your new home is bringing you a lot of joy. xx

  15. jen storer November 27, 2011 / 4:38 am

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, Josephine. The passing of a parent is so huge, we can’t really prepare for it. I don’t imagine one ‘gets over’ such things—all we really do is somehow weave it into our lives, into who we are and who we are yet to become. What I can say is that your dad must have been proud of you. What a beautiful daughter you are and what an amazing connection you both still have. Many blessings to you both jxx

  16. josephinetalepeddler November 28, 2011 / 5:17 am

    Thanks Jen. Your words are so beautiful as always. It’s very numbing to lose a parent, I have to say. And I don’t think we ever feel ready no matter how old we are. xx

  17. Jane December 9, 2011 / 4:05 am

    Oh Josephine, you darling girl. I have just found my way here after finding your comment on my post on Nikki Gemmell.

    I am so sorry to hear about your Dad’s death. I can completely relate to where you’re at. My Dad died at the Gibson Ward from a blood disorder on 17 August 2011 so I am also in mourning.

    I am so pleased you were able to spend time with him in his last days. I did too and was holding his hand when he died.

    I adore butterflies and love your reference and symbolism. They also spell ‘hope’ to me. And that’s what we’re both looking for now, I guess.

    Thinking of you in Hobart. And please do let me know about your new novel when it’s released! J x

  18. Josephine December 12, 2011 / 8:06 am

    Dear Jane, thank you so much for leaving a comment. I’m so sorry about your father’s death as well. I will definitely come and write you a longer email on your blog. Life is never the same when you lose a parent as I am now finding out. Thinking of you in Sydney and I shall definitely give you a shout out when the book comes out next year! xx

    • Jane December 15, 2011 / 1:03 am

      Thanks, Josephine, on all counts. I’d love to hear from you when your book is released – I’m looking forward to it! J x

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