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The consolations of nature

7 July 2019
Ben Pentreath
52 Comments

This was meant to be a blog about a beautiful weekend Charlie and I had had in Scotland – and the week before that, in Suffolk. We’d arrived in Scotland on Friday morning, bright eyed off the sleeper train (where we had both slept a remarkably good night)… meeting our friend Gabby in Glasgow and heading down to a wonderful party that weekend on the Mull of Kintyre. We went via the bothy where progress is taking shape – all the more so in the last two weeks since we were there, which is incredibly exciting.

But It was as we were approaching Campbeltown, at the end of the happiest afternoon, that my phone rang… a lovely neighbour of Dad’s, in Poundbury, who was telling me that she’d received a message that he’d collapsed. I called my brothers, who already knew and were en route. An anxious few hours awaited, as Dad was admitted to hospital and tests and scans were carried out. Later that evening, we spoke again. Dad had had a stroke from which, it seemed, it was almost impossible he could recover. Shattering.

My brothers insisted that Charlie and I stayed in Scotland the next day, for the wedding, but the following day we were back down. I arrived in Dorset on Monday. My father was being beautifully cared for in Dorset County Hospital, where the staff were so incredibly kind and thoughtful, and professional; but he had little, really no consciousness; he was at rest, breathing deeply, almost as if he’d just slipped asleep on the sofa after a nice lunch at the Parsonage.

Tim, Jon and I, and my niece Emily, stayed at the Parsonage that night. I walked out in to the garden after supper. There was a beautiful sunset… and, for a moment, an extraordinary phenomenon, which I’d never seen in my life before – a pink rainbow, stretching wide over the village, just as the sun was going down. I couldn’t help feeling that Mum was around somewhere.

Two days later, in the small hours, my dear father gently, peacefully slipped away. My sister-in-law Lisa and I were with him as he went; it was calm, it was completely gentle, it was a moment of almost strange beauty. But yet again we find ourselves on the rocky shore of sadness.  It’s been a strange year. Stop the clocks.

Dad loved Mum so much; he was missing her so much, that it really did feel that when she died back in February, his purpose of life had vanished. Regular readers of this blog, over the years, will know the huge love my parents had for one another. After 56 years of marriage, they have been apart for four short months.

It feels as if a part of the world has now ended. I know that many readers will have experienced what I’m just learning to experience.  I’ll be honest, there is much less shock than with Mum, and in so many ways a sense of relief, for me and my brothers, that Dad’s sadness is no longer; a huge sense of relief too, that he isn’t now in a care home, hospitalised for the rest of a painful life – a condition he would have detested.  But the sadness is now like a thread woven through every cloth.  The rest of life at the moment has been feeling so positive that it’s almost rather powerful having that new thread weaving again through the warp and weft of the cloth of life.

And so, at this time of year, with night after night of beautiful warm evenings in the garden, I’m  finding again the consolations of nature – almost intensely so. 

Incidentally, the little church is now having the roof and the spire repaired. Work is progressing well and will be finished later this summer.  It’s a moment again to thank so many generous blog and Instagram followers for their support in fundraising the last part of the campaign to mend the roof. 

The meadow is looking amazing this summer, just dreamy. 

A few days later we went over to Jim and Nic’s for supper. They had been so good to Dad, especially after Mum had died. We were all feeling reflective, but on an evening of such beauty,  the world felt entirely redemptive. 

And a few days later, we were at our friend Kate Hubbard’s, at Chilcombe – the extraordinary garden created by her remarkable father John – the renowned artist, but equally, an incredible plantsman and gardener.  Yet again, the consolations of nature, and of balmy summer evenings, and of friends. 

The view leaving Chilcombe, looking down to the sea, is breathtaking every time. 

Back home that evening:

And this weekend, we’ve had my best friend Valentina over from New York, with perfect timing. On Friday evening, we went down to the sea before supper. It was flat calm, infinite.

This was precisely the same spot that Tim, Charlie and I had taken Dad the evening after Mum had died.  Four months later, here we were again, staring at a soft, completely calm sea.

Life is strange. Charlie’s been a bit under the weather today, with some sort of fever that put him in bed all day. We missed the gorgeous party at Bettiscombe thrown every year by our friends Jasper and Oisin.  We’ve had the quietest day at the Parsonage, Charlie asleep most of the time. I’ve been reading, and just thinking, and catching up with myself, sleeping in the sun and the shade of the big tree this afternoon.

It’s no bad thing right now.

 

52 comments on this post

Valeriesays:

Dear Ben,
I was right now reading the Times and as soon as I saw the name Pentreath my thoughts went to you. Having lost my dearest father 3 years ago I can imagine your pain at the moment. Thank you for sharing this moment with us and for the beautiful photos. I wish you all the best, always. My condolences.

David Perkinssays:

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. What a beautiful post to your love of family and the beauty of nature which comes to everyone’s aid at a time like this.

Sarah Smithsays:

My condolences on your loss.

Diane Keanesays:

Ben, and of course my condolences on your own loss! Please take some comfort from knowing that your dear parents are now reunited for eternity.

Diane Keanesays:

Dearest Ben, this post for me was like having a dear friend’s consolation during a painful time. I’ve mentioned previously (when your Mom died) that I’d lost my son in 2018. So this year’s 4th of July family picnic was the first one without Joe, and the first anniversary of his death will come around in August. You write how “the sadness is like a thread woven through every cloth.” You understand, and you state so beautifully what I will feel for the rest of my life, which in turn helps me to understand and bear up. Thank you!

Nicolasays:

So sorry to read this. Very best wishes to you both and your family from another adult orphan.

Hettiesays:

Sending you and your love ones sunshine Ben. I found beauty in the way you still managed to recognize the goodness in others during this time — describing your dad’s neighbor as lovely, mentioning the beautiful care of the hospital staff. I don’t know you, but know with certainty you’re a wonderful person [your parents influence no doubt], the kind nobody wants to see unhappy for a second. xx

Deborah Wagnersays:

I can add nothing substantive to what you and the previous commenters have said, but Funeral Blues is one of my very favorite poems on the subject, so I’ll give you the rest of it, with the caveat that I don’t believe it’s message of doom for a moment. There is no doom. All we have to do is look at your garden to know that God as we understand it loves us all very much and death is being called home to eternal bliss. Sending the most gigantic hug, with a doom-ridden Auden, who got it utterly and completely wrong.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

TracyGoodingsays:

Dear Ben, deepest condolences as you mourn your dear dad. Comfort and strength to you as you reflect on all that your parents have meant to you in your life. God’s nature is surely the best of balms to sooth and heal.

Allison Holmessays:

Thank you for the lovely photographs and the couple of views of The Parsonage that I don’t recall seeing before. I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad. I have gone and read his obituary in The Telegraph – what an incredible (and astonishingly brave) man! Of course, as I’m about the same age as you it makes me think a lot about my own parents, especially my Mum who has already had one stroke. Best wishes as always, Allison

David Gardnersays:

A garden or a landscape to wander through is an essential path through grief. Nature can provide the arms of comfort we so desperately need, the mirror to reflect our sorrow and the balm to heal the heart and spirit. I have all this still to face, with two ninety year olds now ailing slowly into the end of their days with us. Thank you for your words….and photos, always inspiring.

Sally Leonardsays:

Ben, such sad news of your father’s passing. I’m a long-time follower and have thought over the years how beautifully you’ve spoken of your parents.
Hope your heart can be filled with peace with your parents now together.

J-Dubsays:

Dear Ben, Your beautiful words and photos are such a tribute to your father, your mother, and to you, their son. In the wake of such losses this year, you are surrounded by love — Charlie, the dogs, the village, your friends — and I wish you many peaceful days ahead. — Jacquelyn, a loyal blog reader

Lesley Suttonsays:

So sorry to hear of you and your family’s loss, you have my deepest sympathy.

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Such beautiful images of the rainbow, the glorious landscape and then the news of your sad loss. Your parents are together again….best wishes to you both from New Zealand

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Beautiful words and photographs as always, just a very sad time for you and your family, but also lots of happy memories to carry you forward…your parents are together now, they are at peace.

Best wishes from New Zealand…

Lindseysays:

Loosing a parent, let alone two in one year is devastating and life changing. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel what you feel with no guilt. So terribly sorry.

So beautiful, 100% with you about nature, thank goodness, what would life be without it?
Life feels so perilous and golden all at the same
time, hard sometimes to keep the balance! xx

Chris and Mike. Christchurch NZsays:

Dear Ben. We are very saddened by news of your Dad’s passing, and we are thinking of you and Charlie. You have written a beautiful and tender blog post that reminds us, and all your readers, of the power of love. May your parents now rest in peace in each other’s arms for eternity.

Kathsays:

I’m so so sad for you. Both Mum and Dad in such a short time.
Love from Arrowtown

Allensays:

Dear Ben, I am so sorry about your loss. As always, your words and images are beautiful and so suited to the moment at hand. My thoughts are with you, your family, and Charlie.

Sharonsays:

Dear Ben, I was so shocked to read the obituary of your father last week in the Telegraph. As everyone else has said it probably is a blessing as they are now together. But you and your family have the hard task of learning to live without them. Your piece also bought tears to my eyes , time will heal you . Sending all good wishes .

Judithsays:

I also send my condolences. I am in tears. Your words and the picture of the rainbow sent a tingling through my whole body. I experienced similar signs when both my parents died (1991 and 1999) in Wimborne. Bless you, Ben.

Timothysays:

Dear Ben and Charlie,

Let me add my heartfelt condolences, from New York City. It is a strange and sad rite of passage – losing one’s parents – that we all experience. Remember that your friends, and readers, share this moment with you, and bear you up in their thoughts. Let nature heal each of you. And take good care of each other.

Marshasays:

Ben,
Thank you for the beautiful words and pictures. I am reminded that through nature ( the vistas the flowers, the gardens, the ocean, the sky) that there is a god of some sort taking care of us. The wonder of it all and then the floor drops. I’m so sorry for your huge loss.
I referred to myself as an orphan when I became parentless. I’m so sorry.

Jane Leonardsays:

Ben – I cannot add more to what has already been said so well by others, but please accept my sincere condolences.

Annsays:

I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing. I loved the pink rainbow pictures and your comment about your mother being nearby. May peace fill your heart as you adjust to life without them.

Joanne Robinsonsays:

Dear Ben,
So sorry for your recent loss. Perhaps we all need a pink rainbow now and then.

Anna K.says:

Dear Ben,

I write this with my sight blurred with tears; in sorrow for your sadness, but also in gratitude for the way you have shared with your readers the consolation you have found in the living world around us.

Parting from those we love is the hardest thing; but you have beautiful memories that are yours for ever. ‘Death is the guardian and not the thief of our treasures.’

Joan MacDowellsays:

Dear Ben,
I am so sorry for your loss. It’s so hard when we lose our parents, to them you are always their child, loving you unconditionally. I know when I lost my parents it was hard, even though I was in my 30’s, to realize that I was no longer someone’s child. Now I am in my 60’s and a grandmother trying to pass on all the love my parents gave me. We are truly blessed to have had them.
What a beautiful blog you have written. It is those precious memories that will stay with you. Know that they are still with you, still loving you and watching over you.
Wishing Charlie a speedy recovery.

Judith Haxtonsays:

I am so sorry for your recent losses. Your eloquent blog brings to mind the beautiful poem by Mary Elizabeth Fry.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds
in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there .
I did not die.

Judy

Sarahsays:

Dear Ben. I am so sad to read this it has made me cry. You see my father died the same week as your mother, and my mother is now just about to go into a community hospital having fallen three weeks ago. She too misses my father so much. They would have been married for 59 years next month, and the last four months has been so difficult for her and for myself and my family trying to care for her and deal with our own grief at losing our dear father. I am so very sorry for you and will be holding you all in my thoughts and prayers this week.

Anneliessays:

My condoleances and Ben: beautifully written

Kathie Johnsonsays:

The pink rainbow. Family, friends and love. So much love. Sending yet more from Texas, still.

Emilysays:

Dear Ben,

It’s such a seismic shift to lose both parents, isn’t it?
I rather feel we find ourselves bobbing around in the universe, in an attempt to find our new place without the buffer of dearest parents.

I send you sincerest condolences and while I don’t know you, wish you all the comfort that the letters and stories from your parents’ friends might bring you in coming weeks.

Very best,
Emily

Melaniesays:

I’m sorry for your loss, but what a beautiful thought that your parents are together again. Your Mum must have sent the rainbow to let you know it’s ok. Nature is the one constant that always heals.

Stephanie Murraysays:

Your words made me cry, I knew how much they had to be with each other. I lost my son in law yesterday aged 47, too Young. God bless

Hazel Lavellesays:

Such sad news , but iam sure your dad is at peace now with your mum .

Love hazel (Manchester uk) X

Charlie Buddsays:

Oh Ben, I’m so sorry you’ve lost your Dad. I hope you continue to find consolation in the many ways you’ve beautifully written about above. Sending the biggest beardyhugs I can muster. Charlie x

Estelle Smithsays:

Hello Ben, Sending you my deepest condolences, I saw the name Pentreath in The Times Obituary Column and just wondered if it was your father.You have had such lovely parents and I agree with Lesley they are always with you.
Thank you for all your blogs, I send them on to a friend in Texas who loves them too.
Take Care,
Estelle

Tina Lylesays:

Dear Ben, it seems strange that address as we’ve never met in person but I read your blog each week after buying a wedding present a couple of years from your shop.
My love and thoughts go out to you since I lost in quick succession my father, my mother and my husband of 40 years. Today would have been our 41st wedding anniversary and I’ll go and walk beside the chalk bedded River Lambourn with my faithful Labrador Beth where we had so many happy walks in the past.
Rainbows are so special at reminding us of past loved ones and the moon of loved ones living far away.
My deepest heartfelt condolences – let nature work it’s healing power over you.
Tina

David Sanderssays:

What a year it has been for you, Ben; to lose both parents in such a short space of time. Sorry for your loss. Having the company of friends and family at this time is a blessing, although moments of solitude for reflection are comforting, as well. I read your father’s obituary in The Telegraph – certainly a proud and distinguished career in the navy.

Best wishes to you and Charlie for the future, which I am sure will be full of much love, wonder and delight – and more architectural triumphs, of course.

Lesley Coopersays:

Such moving words. But I do think you never really lose those whom you have loved; they stay with you.

Get well soon, Charlie and – both of you – be wrapped in a cloud of comfort.

Jason Neilensays:

Very sorry to read about your loss…hard to find the words really.

Lyndasays:

So beautifully written, Ben. Sending hugs to you both.

Davidsays:

Thoughts with you all at this time

Julian Honersays:

Dear Ben, Have just read your very sad news, so beautifully expressed. Alison, Charlotte and I are in Greece, waiting to go up into the mountains for lunch in the hope that it will be cooler there. We’re thinking of you and will “Yamas” our lunchtime glasses to wish you our very best. We hope Charlie gets better soon too. Love from the three of us.

Debra Mooresays:

Dear Ben My sincere condolences to you Charlie and your family.It is very brave of you to share your heartfelt thoughts and feelings l hope it has given you some comfort and reflection.The rainbow was a much needed sign that nature is bigger than all of us we as humans are part of that intricate presence.We live but we dont understand all there is to know about life and death but we know the energy of love will be forever in our hearts.Rejoice in your happy memories they are yours for eternity.

Birgitsays:

Dear Ben,
I am so sorry, my deep condolences !
The pink rainbow was a sign … now your parents are together again !
All my best wishes and thoughts to you and your family !

Good health to Charlie,
Yours Birgit from Germany

Megsays:

Dear Ben,
As long time readers of your wonderful blogs, we came to know your dear parents and share in your sorrow and loss. Our deepest sympathy to you, Charlie (be well!) and families.

Mikesays:

Oh,Ben – I was terribly sorry to hear about your father, yet like you it feels like it was for the best. My grandparents followed a similar path after 52 yrs of marriage; my grandmother died and less than 6 months later my grandfather followed. It was incredibly sad yet it seemed right. I probably haven’t expressed that in the most diplomatic way but I think you know what I mean.
Really it’s we your readers who must thank you for your generosity in sharing your life with Charlie and your charming ménagerie with all of us. Not only the good & beautiful but the more challenging and dare I say more human moments. It takes a special person to be that open & honest.
Sending best wishes to you & your family and good health to Charlie.

Joan Rosascosays:

Dear Ben, I am sorry to learn of this second bereavement. It is strange to be in the world without our parents; it was through them, holding their hands, that we first knew it. But your father’s death seems to have been peaceful, as he joined your mother. As a reader, I send my condolences.

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