My Local Hero

Yesterday, on the 2nd July 2018, a very hot Monday afternoon, we said goodbye to the greatest man I’ve ever known - my Dad. I’ve decided to publish the tribute I wrote for him here so that friends, family and others can come here to read it when they’re feeling low. So here it is:

My very earliest memories of Dad are few but include waving goodbye at the window of Bensley Road, as he pulled away in his old green Volkswagen Golf and of him tucking us into bed at the totally unreasonable hour of 6 o’clock at night when he got home from work. Dad was very much, at this point, the patriarch and provider for the family and we knew him in an almost aloof, although loving, sense. It was only in our late childhood and teenage years, when our relationship with our mother grew more and more fraught, that we began to see a side of Dad that we hadn’t yet experienced.

There were days when mum was in such a state when she picked us up from school that we didn’t want to be alone in the house with her. I’d ring Dad at work. ‘I’ll be home in 20 minutes’, was the usual inevitable answer, as he was quite happy most of the time to drop everything for us. In an environment that often invited chaos and tension, Dad brought understanding, calm and protection. I would be lying if I said that he didn’t sometimes cross the line into overprotective, but I knew that it came from a good place.  

Overall, Michael Bridgman was an unstoppable force of good in this world and to us kids, he was an unshakeable tower of support. He was bountifully kind, generous and good-humoured. He was diplomatic to a fault. He loved to laugh and make others laugh. He was the epitome of Dad puns. Even until the very end, he would be cracking jokes with the nurses, pulling faces at the healthcare assistants and skipping around the hospice trying to entertain people. He gave so much of himself away and barely asked for anything in return. I am sad now that my dad couldn’t have asked more of me sooner, shared more with me and taken anywhere near as much as he’d given in life.

But Dad firmly believed in finding the positive in a situation and would always scold me as soon as he sensed anything that looked, smelled or sounded remotely like cynicism. I think this was because he knew in his heart that, like him, I was a bit of a dreamer. ‘Dolly day-dreamer’, they called me. I recall a birthday card he wrote to me a few years ago that said ‘Never give up and always have a dream’. He believed in justice, hope and love and I believe his career as a social worker was an end to these beliefs.

I remember a time when someone bitter said to me, ‘he loves those kids more than he loves you’. Now, I don’t believe that for a second, but in that moment I realised how grateful I was to have a Dad whose love could reach beyond his own treasured family and out into the community to children who really needed it. I had so much love in my life already, if Dad had a bit extra to go around, then it made me incredibly proud.    

I am so privileged to have had such a father. I must confess that the world feels emptier without him, but having had him in our lives has been a blessing beyond words. This sentiment brings me to a short quote from Khalil Gibran:

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives? When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

If there was anyone who could find the silver lining on even the darkest cloud, it was Dad. That is how I intend to live my life in his absence and how I would encourage those who loved him to live out his legacy. He was my protector, my tower of support, my local hero. We will miss him every day.

Thank Yous

Whilst we’re here I would like to say a few thank yous to people to have helped us over the last few months. First of all to Laura, who was first on the scene and without whose constant devotion, support and avid research we could not have gotten through. To Jenny and Tessa, who gave up their time to come down to Norwich to help me out and have been so valuable in many other big and little ways. To Mark, whose help and support was always there when needed. To Tom, Tracy and Rupert, who cooked food, brought entertainment, cleared the garden so Dad could get his chair out and various other invaluable pieces of help. To all the staff at Trinity Street Surgery and Priscilla Bacon Lodge whose kindness and devotion to our NHS fills me with hope for the future. To my hoards of beloved friends who are here today and my boyfriend Kilo - I can’t even tell you how incredibly wonderful they are and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support. And lastly, to Jeanine Burks, who was there with me until the very end and who has provided an unbelievable and invaluable amount of advice and support at all hours of the day, as well as pulling strings when we needed it. You bring new meaning to the term ‘love thy neighbour’ and I cannot thank you enough.

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