Untitled reflection

So, my father died. He died a week and a bit ago, late on a Monday night. My mother and sister had gone home for the night; my wife and remaining daughter were to fly in later in the evening, and my other sister the next day. But in the end, it was just Dad and me. It was unspeakably hard, the last day or so, and the last five minutes when I knew he was about to die were terrible. I loved my father greatly, and he loved me. We all knew he loved us deeply.

This is a blog about aid work in Afghanistan, the intersections between commitment, effort and outcome in the humanitarian sphere, and from the point of view of a person of faith – so I will not deviate too far into the business of my own grief.

It is hard though, to watch someone die, to be so ultimately powerless. So many things are in our control – or so we like to imagine – particularly in the comfortable West. Not death. I held his hands and cradled him as his breathing stopped, and then I just cried and cried.

In the last few days of my Dad’s life, I prayed that he would last, would live to see my sister married in June. Then I just prayed that he would make it out of this current onslaught of illnesses. Then I prayed he would last long enough to see his other daughter arrive. In the end I was praying he would make it through the night, and then simply that he would have a final moment of lucidity. With each step, my prayers became tighter and more limited their request, and in reflection, none of them were answered positively.

Though I guess you could interpret all that as the capriciousness (and therefore non-existence) of God, I suspect all it really means is I don’t get prayer properly. I think I often use prayer as a form of agitating God for what I want, which seems kind of pathetic when you hold it up to the light. I don’t really think that is what prayer is about. I am guessing it is more what Pete F reckons, a sharing of pain, joy, grief, insignificant moments and great ones.

That aside, I miss my Dad enormously.

We hope to be back in Kabul in April, but it is not clear how this all will work. We felt called to work and live in Afghanistan for the long haul way back in ’96, and that all has never changed nor been rescinded. But yet again, the disruptions and dislocations of life have derailed us somewhat.


8 thoughts on “Untitled reflection

  1. Been thinking and praying for you guys heaps – especially since I had the chance to talk to Julie and then soon after hearing of your dad’s death. Glad you were there for him despite it being so painful. Lots of love from afar and blessings of space, time and wisdom to begin to work through your loss and grief and the decisions to be made. Elisa & Josh

  2. So so sorry to hear your sad news mate, expected or not. Despite the terrible pain and grief, I am “glad” you were there holding his hand and praying for him at the end. I imagine he would have liked that if you know what I mean.
    Mate I don’t have a number for you, went to text you a couple of days ago and didn’t know how to contact you, sorry about that.

    Much love

  3. Thinking and praying for you phil.
    I believe it is a very blessed and difficult place to be with someone as they die.
    I was alone with my grandfather as he died.

    I pray for some snippets of joy to sneak in as your family has time here.

    Bless you guys and God bless Afghanistan.

  4. hi Phil, just on the prayer angle, have you read Phillip Yanceys book on prayer? he gives a good debate of the perplexities, including that even Jesus didnt get all his prayers answered.
    Hope you two and the kids are settling down again, love

  5. Dear Philip
    I am deeply saddened by the death of your Dad. Your words describing the last moments of Malcolm’s life are so powerful that they have brought me to tears. I remembered the gentle spirit and helping nature your Dad and I will always remember him as great mentor, teacher and guide.
    Please pass my condolences to your family on this great loss.

    (Malcolm’s student)

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