My Dad - a tribute and a personal reflection
by Ian Craig
in Blogs

On the 8th of January 2019, two months ago by the date of writing, my Dad (Jim Craig) tragically passed away while cycling along the Braamfontein Spruit near my home in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was riding with me and his 3-year old grandson Alex, who travels with me on his child seat. My Dad fell as he rode through a storm water drain and according to the autopsy report, incurred a ‘blunt force trauma to his neck’, dying more-or-less instantaneously.

His death has been a massive shock to me and in honesty, I’m still very much reeling from the aftereffects of the event, an unplanned trip to Scotland for his funeral, and from having to get on with my day job as if nothing has happened. At age 73, my Dad leaving this world has felt premature to me - he was a person, much like myself, who had pursued sport and outdoor activity all of his life. But, on deep reflection, it is certainly not for me to decide when it was or was not a good time for him to go. Life sometimes throws us challenges that cannot be predicted by our well formed human plans.

My memories of my Dad come strongly through a connection from exercise and sport. One of my most valued photos of my him is of me as a 3-year old child sitting between his legs in his old wooden kayak (below) - he was sporting a thick brown beard and looked very young and fit at age 29. We were paddling on the River Doon in my hometown of Ayr on the west coast of Scotland, where a few years later he taught me to paddle in my own little red boat, before heading out into the expansive depths of Ayr bay.

Dad canoe

In his 20’s, my Dad played first team rugby for Ayr RFC and then progressed to competing in the Scottish kayaking leagues until his early 40’s. His proudest moment as a paddler was placing 3rd in the Round the Isle of Wight race in the early 1980’s - all 50-odd miles of it. As I child I idolised him in sport, and during my running career, he became coach to me and several other talented young athletes at Ayr Seaforth AC.

Beyond rugby and kayaking, his passion was sailing and boat building, which ultimately progressed to a single handed passage of the Atlantic nine years ago. I remember as a teenager he had a 23-foot boat permanently parked in the driveway - this boat was featured on Google Earth until quite recently! It was a project boat and with the time he put into it during school holidays and long summer evenings, it took him almost 10 years to complete to his satisfaction. A few years later, he saved enough to buy something closer to his dream boat - an old 38-foot ketch (twin mast) called Athena, in Greece. Since the late 90’s, he would spend as much time as life would allow, pursuing his passion of boats and water - this was where my Dad was completely at peace with the ebbs and flows of life. I remember when I would fly to Greece, which was quite often in my pre-parenting days, my Mum and Dad would insist that I took my watch off - this was so I could thoroughly immerse myself in the rhythms of rural life… Greece will always be a connection with my Dad in spirit - his boat Athena still sits in the Galatas boatyard, awaiting the return of her master.

Despite my resistance to say this during my time of grieving for my father; from death we have life. A day after my Dad’s passing, I was walking slowly through Delta Park in Johannesburg with my Mum and my dogs, wishing out of respect, for life to just stop - even if just for a minute or two. But all I could see around me was life - flowers blooming, the river flowing, people running and cycling, and children and dogs having fun. My Mum flew back to Scotland the next day and at that time, all I wanted was to immerse myself in the love of my two little boys - no longer were their child-like antics annoying - they brought me warmth and love and… life. They are, after all, the future.

And it is through my connection with my children that has brought me to where I am and what I feel today. Due to over-work during the past few years of my life, I was already starting to steep myself in a period of introspection as we rounded the bend into 2019, but loosing my Dad has just mega supersized that space, and it has perpetuated the sheer importance of transitioning my personal ways of being and doing.

My work and life is all about health. Since age 10, my personal pursuit of physical excellence, as I chased an Olympic dream, was not only about being the best runner, but it was about being the best form of myself - physically, mentally and emotionally. In my teens and twenties, the physical aspect of that combination naturally took priority, but as I’ve matured in age, experienced many life challenges, and grown as a person and a practitioner, that has very much changed.

My practitioner work is about helping people on their personal journey towards improved health, self love and an improved relationship with themselves and life around them. My education work centres around bringing the subtle and energetic awareness of food, nutrition, lifestyle, movement and physical-mental-emotional health into an extremely measured, quantitative, scientific view of the world that we currently somehow respect and practice. This applies to general nutrition, sports nutrition, physical activity and medicine. I have my vision of what I can and will contribute in this space.

Despite being able to share valuable health insights, however, when you give too much of yourself you can endanger your personal health, and that is what’s been happening to me over the past number of years. I’m tired and burned out and despite having experienced an incredible growth period in mental, emotional and spiritual health, I’ve lost the physicality that is so so important to me. I’m in my mid 40’s, feeling like I’m much older, and it’s time to take stock and honour what is important to me. My Dad’s passing has boosted the importance of looking after myself so that I can continue to give love and support to other people. So I would like to pay tribute and to reflect on some important learnings from him:

Dad, what have I learned from you?

Dad, regretfully I can’t have you back, but I will continue to learn from you always. As a child, you taught me an appreciation of life and nature’s beauty and the energy that can be obtained from living within it. You taught me family values and the sheer importance of always ‘being there’ for my kids, as you always were for me and my brother. You taught me how to make hard decisions and not to look back, rather embracing every present and future opportunity that came my way. You taught me how to find peace and tranquility in my life while doing the things I love. And you have taught me to recognise dis-ease in my own life and when change is needed.

When you died Dad, I could feel that you passed a mantle onto me. It is a very heavy mantle because it contains all the memories and learnings of your legacy, but it is one that I will carry with conviction and compassion for the rest of my days, and I believe that it will gradually lighten in load as I continue to grow and expand as a human being.

Thank you for sharing a life well lived Dad. I will carry you in my heart always.