I have been writing a story for sometime now about my father, John Frederick Lingard Fowlds, who died when I was a teen. He never got to know how I, or my brothers and sister turned out as adults, or ever got to meet any of our children, and grandchildren. I began writing his story, fictionalised to some degree, to give the wider family some idea of what kind of person he was. Writing about him has been relatively easy, as he was a funny, warm and loveable man. Very artistic too. The hard part is the loss I still feel for him after so long, and maybe the reason I am taking so long to write his story, is that I don’t wish to lose him again.
And then, something quite remarkable happened just a couple of weeks back. My sister phoned, saying that she was looking at a digital copy our father’s will. A will none of us had ever seen before. She emailed it through to me, and there it was: eight pages in my father’s handwriting and signed by his lawyer, our mother, and two others, dated eighteen months before his death through heart failure.
He had written a personal note to each family member, including the cat, and as I read his words to me, I was once again that misguided teen who had skipped art classes more often than I should. Dad had written: ‘I do hope that you will carry on with your art’, and suggested I remember all ‘those little chats’ we’d had. And we definitely did have a few. Dad loved art, and he was the one who took me to life drawing for the first time; to an art exhibition; to the river to sketch. Yes Dad, I said as I read, I did carry on with my art. And I knew, at that moment, I would never lapse from my art practice again. (See my father’s oil painting of Hutt river above).
But the most interesting piece of this lovely document, were the words of guidance he set out for his children; a guide to living well if you like.
- Have a definite purpose in life. Plan where you are going. Don’t quit when defeat stares you in the face.
- Have a positive mental attitude.
- Go that ‘extra mile’. In other words give that extra service when doing your job. be prepared to do more that just what you are paid for.
- Applied faith.
- Enthusiasm (perhaps not as overwhelming as mine).
- Imagination (perhaps not as vivid as mine).
- Have personal initiative.
- Develop a pleasing personality. And as a footnote he had added : if these principles are observed there is nothing that can’t be achieved.
Dad had also suggested that this list be put up in the kitchen, in order for it to be seen everyday as a reminder of how to live one’s life. Thank you so much Dad, for those fantastic words of advice, and although I never got read them when you intended them to be read, they have given me strength to continue writing your story. My only hope is, that your generosity of spirit may shine through my words.