questions & answers

When my baby boy is a few years older, and I’m no longer here, he’ll find I’ve made him a cloud file containing a short film of me making scrambled eggs in the kitchen in my underpants. In another film I’m shaving. I made one in which I’m reading a story and one with his Mummy, talking about how we met. Actually, there are a lot of films. When Jimmy and Tom one day open these files, they’ll find enough films to fill an evening schedule for cable tv.

One resource that really helped me is the research that has been done by the people behind RecordMeNow.org - an app that allows terminally ill parents to record messages for their children. The team conducted interviews with young people who had lost one or both parents. They were asked what kind of questions they would like to have asked their parents when they were alive; what information would have helped them to feel like they knew their parents. These were the kinds of questions:

•  How did you choose my name?
•  What advice do you have for dating and going through puberty?
•  Do you have any favourite sayings/recipes?
•  How do you handle anger?
•  What is your favourite after-shave/perfume?
•  Can you speak about your favourite books?
•  What was my birth like?
•  What advice can you give me to help me grieve for you?
•  What do you wish for me?

It was after reading this that I filmed myself cooking scrambled eggs in my underpants. Because this is me, unfortunately. So why not? The cologne I use is a 40p own brand version from Sainsburys, so this doesn’t offer much. But actually, this is me again.

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I started using these ideas in the birthday cards I’ve been writing for my sons. So that along with my doodles and jokey stuff and the reminders of how much I love my boys, I have included in each card some recollection of times we spent together. Something really specific. A reminder to them that what we shared was real. And that it’s not lost. Because what is real, ultimately? It’s not us. It’s not our physical bodies. It’s the time we spent together. It’s an incident we remember. It’s the details of our lives.

As a parent who is going to die prematurely, I can’t help feeling guilt. There are a number of reasons why I feel this; I just can’t shake off the guilt that I am depriving my children of the experience of having a Dad. Every child needs to one day ditch their parents, in one way or another. But maybe it’s hard to let go of something you never really had, or that you had only fleetingly. So the films are my way of providing a resource that my sons can access, if and when they want to. Something to be embarrassed by, if that’s what they need. And something to say goodbye to.

by Joe Hammond

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