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Oiling Dad’s furniture: my precious annual ritual

So grateful to be able to honour my Dad by taking care of his antique French furniture

BEFORE #oiling #ritual #gratitude #loss @boneAndsilver

April 24th is Dad’s birthday. He would have been 84, if he hadn’t died suddenly 10 years ago. As devastating as the loss was, dragging me into a depression for 12 months, it helped me find deep resilience, and gratitude for my unwaveringly loyal friends and family.

Each year, we all eat Indian for dinner, Dad’s favourite cuisine, wherever we are in the world.

And I have my own personal ritual too, as I try to keep the day clear of work or other commitments: I shut the front door, turn my phone off, allow myself to cry as often and as much as I like, while cleaning and oiling Dad’s antique French furniture.

He wasn’t religious, (despite an interest in the Baha’i faith, mainly because it emphasised the “essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people” [Wikipedia]), so I can’t go connect with him in church. He has no gravestone or memorial plaque, as we scattered his ashes all over the globe, as befitted a world traveller and citizen such as he- I even put some illegally secretly up my local mountain.

So grateful to be able to honour my Dad by taking care of his antique French furniture

#oiling #ritual #gratitude #loss @boneAndsilver

But I’ve created the perfect ceremony for us both, finding a peaceful rhythm in the washing, oiling, and polishing of his chairs, the old kitchen table, and his ornately carved sideboard.

I reflect on the many dinner parties he held round that table; I turned 18 sitting there, next to Grandma and Grandpa.

I recall his hunt for the chairs to suit it, which I’ve now inherited- they’re not my ideal chairs to be honest, but there’s just no way I could ever get rid of them.

I reminisce about meals served, stories told, laughs shared, and connections made. Every year now I oil his furniture, and have clearly told my son ‘Nearly 19’ that it will be his duty to do the same when I’m gone.

The wood comes to life under my soft cloth. Cobwebs and dust are swept away, and I listen for the furniture sighing with delight at my nurturing.

So grateful to be able to honour my Dad by taking care of his antique French furniture

AFTER #oiling #ritual #gratitude #loss @boneAndsilver

It’s hard work too, as my arm muscles get tired, and brow sweaty. This is better for me than sitting and weeping, although I did a lot of that of course when he first passed. The best advice I ever got from a counsellor or therapist was to try to tuck my grief under my arm like a clipboard or notebook, and only take it out to look at it/feel it when I was in a safe place (like my home), and for an allocated amount of time (e.g.15 minutes/one hour/one day), rather than just drowning in overwhelm 24/7.

Brilliant.

So April 24th’s furniture oiling is the perfectly practical, sensitive, ritualised honouring of my darling Dad’s birthday, for which I am truly thankful.

How do you mark a lost loved one’s birthday? I’d love to hear about what works for you…

In gratitude for the sacred in my living room, G xO 

 

32 Comments

    • S_MW says

      Sorry I didn’t write more, but I was speed reading a couple of blogs (this and an other) and had no time to comment. This touched me (hence the hearts) as it made me think of my own dear dad. Lovely…G! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It became very clear, very quickly, that much of the book I am writing (latest title: Interrogating Memory: Film Noir, Identity and a Search for Truth) is about my unfinished relationship with my father. Because he died when I was 15 and had lost almost everything gambling, I have very little tangible from him.

    Except, of course, his last name. And our younger daughter Nora’s middle name–Louise–comes from his name (OK, his middle name): Louis. And since both our daughters also bear his last name…

    What I love most about your ritual is that YOU defined it–not a religious text or some other decree. And that means you are free to modify it (or not) as suits your needs.

    Happy 84th Birthday. G’s father!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Matt- that book sounds very interesting- whether alive & ‘present’ or not, our parents have a profound influence on us; it seems like our life’s work to partly disentangle it hey?

      I love my furniture ritual- it feels so right for me. Thank you for commenting as always 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful ritual. I am so glad you have his furniture – over from England I assume? It looks very lovely. I’m sad to say that I don’t have any rituals really. I have my dear departed grandmother’s things in many places – a picture of her here, a picture she painted there, and some useful kitchen items that never fail to bring her back to me. The same will be when my final grandmother passes – she recently gave away everything other than the bare essentials as she moved into a nursing home. Now I have the pleasure of dining from her plates, using her ivory-handled butter knives and silver spoons, and admiring her little antique knic-knacks around my place. Thanks for sharing G 🙂

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  3. What a wonderfully meaningful way to mark your father’s birthday! And I understand what you mean about not having a place to actually remember him. Even though my father was a minister, he wanted to be cremated, and we scattered his ashes in a local woods. (Probably not legally, but it was what he would have wanted.) On his birthday every year, I just remember the best of him and smile, and know that I was lucky to have this loving, if imperfect, man as a father.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ann- yes, none of our Dads are perfect, just like us, but a place or way to remember them feels essential hey? I’m glad yours is in the woods: my Dad is too, as well as the river Seine in Paris, various oceans, his old garden in Canada, & under a tree in the Japanese Gardens in Adelaide, plus up in the Himalayas of Nepal- he’s cast wide!

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  4. Oh, I love this idea so much. What a wonderful way to honor your dad. I’m sure he’s smiling over it. I’ve never thought to honor my parents in such a way on their birthdays. I think fondly of them and try not to be too sad–but these seem cheap imitations now that I’ve heard your method. I’m going to try to be more thoughtful about this from now on. Thank you! You’ve inspired me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow that’s great, I’m so happy to have inspired you! We have such capacity for creativity, ritual, & meaning; we just need to give it some thought, and most importantly, actually take some action. I trust you will find a meaningful method for you 🙏🏼❤️

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  5. How lovely. I’m not religious but I do believe in a form of immortality; so long as people remember us with love, we’re never truly gone. -hugs-

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I saw this on Twitter but have only just got round to reading your post. I recall you writing of this ritual before. It’s such a beautiful way to remember and honour your Dad. To do something that involves care and nurture seems wholly appropriate. And now I want to treat all my furniture with beeswax and orange oil. Sounds divine!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a beautiful and touching post. Such a great tradition. I wish my parents had left me something tangible like the furniture you have. I have only my memories, which I get out and share with my own tween as often as I can, to keep them alive.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think rituals and ceremonies are really important for a lot of reasons, so I like yours. I don’t have a special ritual for my parents – both passed now. But they are in my mind most days in some regard. I really enjoy having dreams with them in the dream. It’s like like getting another chance to be with them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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