Bob Reid, my beloved father, died on the 29 December, 2015.
I wasn't there, I wasn't by his side, I wasn't holding his hand. But trust me I felt the loss with as much force as a steam train. That afternoon, less than half an hour later, I appeared on stage alongside the greatest cast I could have been working with, continuing my role as Genie in Aladdin. I believe there was genuine shock and concern that I went on that night, so soon after such a major bereavement. Some of my colleagues couldn't understand how or why I would continue my performance under such circumstances but to me, it was the only thing to do. Why wouldn't I?
Would my absence make me feel better? Would choosing to stay alone enhance my memories of Dad and all he had taught me? Would avoiding work honour the amazing man my dad was? The answer to all was no.
Was it easy? Certainly not.
The only reason I trod those boards that day and those following was to salute the best man in the world. The kindest, most generous, most supportive man. My hero, my father.
I know how proud my father would have been of me on stage, I felt his strength flow through me. Every second of that performance, every cheer from the crowd, every laugh, every round of applause was, in my heart, loud enough to reach him, loud enough to let him know I honoured him.
Up to his passing Dad had been poorly for quite some time but he never lost his absolute pride in what I was doing. He loved these blog posts, loved the pantomime, the celebration that came along with that. He had always been so proud, of all of us. He devoted his time to raising us to be proud, strong, to stand up for those who couldn't stand up for themselves. As I became more well-known Dad thought it was fabulous. He revelled in my success and wanted to celebrate it.
Seeing the launch of Celebrity Big Brother this week really brings back great memories, Mum and Dad loved the show, even before I was on it and would watch it avidly - Mum still does. My going into the house was huge for them, but when I won? WOW I will never forget their faces when I came out. They were over the moon, I was so pleased to see them so happy. Obviously you are so cut off in there from everything, you really have no idea how the general public are receiving you so to win was incredible. It meant so much to have that support, but so much more to make Mum and Dad so very proud. I am so glad I got to experience that special time with them both.
As Dad became ill, he was insistent that he wanted to go on taking photos of our times together, pulling the silly faces from his hospital bed even as the pain was hard on him. He encouraged me to post them, he wanted to see them. He didn't see it was something to hide, something to be ashamed of. Yes he knew he looked ill, as did we all, but he wanted everyone to know that Bob Reid, the ex-paratrooper, the boxer, the gentleman, was not going down without a fight. So we did. We took pictures, we shared memories, we took every opportunity to capture those precious moments together.
We knew Dad's illness was terminal, none of us were ready for how quickly it progressed. None of us were prepared to say goodbye quite so soon. When I received the call to say Dad had died, I felt like the air had been sucked out of the room. Nothing you do can steady your soul for that moment, the moment your life changes forever. I was devastated, I was crushed, I was overwhelmed with sadness. Despite this there was not one moment when I considered not stepping out on to the stage that evening. The concept was so alien to me. Why so resolute? I simply thought - what would Dad want?
My parents and many of the people close to me have dealt with grief and bereavement in such a powerfully strong way it's been motivational and inspirational. To be sad is natural - to be beaten by it isn't, at least not to me.
Don't get me wrong - this is not a guide, this is not a self-help, this is not an instruction manual. We all deal with emotions differently. I am not saying how I deal with it is how you should. How I coped is how you should. We are all unique. We all deal the best we can.
My way is simply the only way I know how, the only way I have been shown. I chose to honour my Dad by honouring my commitments. I chose to celebrate my Dad's life by celebrating with the audience. Their interaction kept me focused, their warmth helped me more than they will ever know.
Since Dad died, and I have spent time with my family, remembering, sharing , laughing, and loving the man who is responsible for so many aspects of my personality, I have witnessed that same strength in those around me. Bob Reid lives on in in each of us. His compassion, his warmth, his cheeky sense of humour and his love for his family. There is so much I will miss about my Dad, but what I have lost in his physical presence, I have gained in his spirit, his strength and his memory. The body withers, the rest is what endures.
If you are struggling with the loss of someone close, I send you strength, hope and love.
I love you Dad x