On Father by John Birmingham
“On Father by John Birmingham published in 2019 by Melbourne University Press.
Well known Australian author, John Birmingham, had his world shattered by the lengthy illness, and subsequent death, of his father. In this short book of only 80 small pages, he chronicles his loving relationship with his father, his struggle with his father’s prolonged sickness and the fallout from his death.
Birmingham grapples with his attempt to accept his father’s passing, quoting from a range of writers and philosophers down through the ages as a means of understanding his grief. He also outlines how his period of bereavement negatively impacted his writing for many months.
I bought this little booklet for two reasons. Firstly, I have read and enjoyed a number of his books. Secondly, early last year I lost my own wife after 47 years of marriage. I am really struggling to move forward with my writing as well. This book has helped me to move on with my own grief, rather than move on from my grief.
As Birmingham found out, almost every pleasant memory or experience is tainted with a touch of loss. I found that to be acutely so on a recent driving holiday in New South Wales and Queensland. I saw so many beautiful things and wished so much that my wife could have seen these amazing places and scenes.