My Dad, Alan Carter, passed away Christmas Day 2015, aged 69. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma (cancer caused by asbestos exposure) earlier this year. This is the letter I gave to him a couple of weeks before his death.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you how I feel about you and the role you have played in my life. I am very grateful to have had you as my Dad – I really do think I have had the best Dad in the world. I have so many memories – family camping trips when we were young (and older), I remember you making Christmas presents for my brothers – a wooden fort, something that looked like the surface of the moon, the train set that pulled down over Jason’s bed.
I remember you taking us out early in the morning before school to collect conkers, then putting them in your vice later so you could drill holes for us to put the laces through.
I remember the first go-kart you made, and how we would take it to Selsdon recreation ground and fly down the hill.
I remember the year we had loads of snow, and your home-made wooden sledge that had metal runners, and how we would lie on your back and hurtle down the hill head first.
I also remember how every Christmas we would always have other people from church at our house for the day – you were always very open at inviting others into our home.
I remember the tree house, with the trap door (just a plank that lifted) and the rope ladder, and the tyre swing.
I remember my summer birthday parties, where I would be swaying in a long floral dress that Little Nanny had made, while you would entertain my friends singing with your guitar.
I remember the church camps, where you were a leader, and would whip everyone into shape.
I remember my teens, when you gave me and my friends lifts just about everywhere. Every church dance, convention or anything, we would have a car-full in our 15 seater people carrier. I remember you took us to Birmingham, for the ice-skating, and on the way back you were game enough to allow us, whilst driving on the motorway to pass a note out the window to some guys in another car that wanted Hayley’s phone number.
I remember the roadshows where you would co-ordinate – and ensure there was a director, a script, someone working on the scenery. You would be there at every rehearsal, not interfering, just supporting. And on the night, you would make sure there was organisation, that every prop and piece of scenery would be set up on stage in the time given.
You were master at putting up a huge 40 foot canvas back-drop, up a ladder. Nothing phased you, not even the request one year to have a huge ‘computer’ the size of a person crash in from the ceiling. ‘Let’s build it with boxes, stuff it with newspaper to make it really heavy, winch it up with a rope’ you said, and at the right moment you let the rope go and it crashed onto the stage, achieving the desired effect.
I also remember the extra activities and events you organised, not because you were asked to, or because it was scheduled in a calendar, but because you cared about the youth and young adults and wanted to provide them with what they needed.
The Isle of Wight Easter weekends were fantastic. There was that legendary moment at the dance on the Saturday night that you leapt off the stage blocks and attempted the splits, but I’m not sure now if that actually happened or has just gone down in folk-lore. These events, and others like the Anglo-French conventions were unique, enriching and inspiring to those that attended.
I remember these things, and I have long-since marvelled at your ability to conceive and create innovative events.
You had the same flair when it came to your other church responsibilities – arranging a weekend mission opportunity not only for the youth, but challenging all the High Council members and Stake Presidency to do a weekend mission. Creating lifelong memories and special experiences for all those involved.
Mission farewells in our home would see non-member friends and neighbours invited. You would go out of your way to connect with people and were never embarrassed to talk about the Church.
I remember you paying me for doing little bits of financial admin in your office when you had your consultancy at home whilst I was 16 or 17 – mainly so I would be able to put it on my CV. I remember when I was studying for my Business degree and you arranged for me to interview all the directors where you worked.
You were always looking for ways to help us and providing opportunities for us to work and learn.
All my life lessons I have learnt from you. Anything is possible. Doing new things. Making things happen, and not being a passenger. Also being calm, and kind. I have seen you help many people over the years. Not once have I head you complain or moan about helping someone. You always did it because you genuinely wanted to help. You also helped me when I went through challenges over the last few years. I couldn’t have made it through that without your support. That meant so much to me. Thank-you for forming a special bond with Harry. He is very lucky to have had so much time with you.
I remember all of it, I am so grateful for it. I really do think I have the best Dad in the world and I will spend every day for the rest of my life trying to follow your example.