Amazing Ways My Children Keep the Memory of Their Father Alive

Mesothelioma Victim John Harlock's family

My father, John Harlock, died a few months ago after reaching the ripe old age of 86. I miss him terribly. Although nothing can lessen the sadness I feel from his death, it’s comforting to know he had a long and happy life and that he was a part of my life for so long.

In the 60-plus years of our father-daughter relationship, Dad was there to help me celebrate the important milestones in my life, including my marriage to Brian and the births of our children and grandchildren.

I am eternally grateful for this.

Some people are not as fortunate to experience a long, fruitful relationship with their father. Mesothelioma, a deadly disease caused by exposure to asbestos, robbed my children, Michelle, Clint and Julie, of their father.

My children were in their twenties when doctors diagnosed Brian with pleural mesothelioma.

His three- to nine-month prognosis and death two years later affected them deeply, and continues to influence the way they choose to live their lives.

Michelle Advances Her Wedding

Shortly after learning her father had developed mesothelioma, Michelle, our eldest daughter, hastened the date of her wedding to Mark to ensure her father attended the special day.

Her efforts were a precious gift to Brian. The look on his face as he walked her down the aisle was one of pure joy, but there was more joy to come.

Michelle knew her father loved bagpipes and she planned a special surprise for him. Halfway through the wedding reception, a piper entered the room and began to play ‘Amazing Grace’ — one of Brian’s favorite tunes on the bagpipes.

Everyone turned to Brian to see his reaction. The look of utter surprise, followed by a smile that lit his face from ear to ear, was just what we had hoped for. It’s a special memory we continue to cherish.

Although Brian witnessed his Michelle’s wedding, he wasn’t given the pleasure of meeting her precious daughter born a few years later. However, in honor of her father, Michelle named her daughter Brianan. Michelle makes sure that Brianan knows everything about her special grandfather.

In addition to being a devoted wife and mother, Michelle is an astute businesswoman who founded a website management company. Over the years, she has won several high-ranking awards for her achievements.

Despite her successes, Michelle misses her father a great deal. She takes great pride in the photos she places on the mantelpiece of them together. She keeps his memory alive by continuing to do many of the things they once enjoyed doing together. Her favorite is planting a vegetable garden and watching it grow. Sometimes, she feels Brian’s presence guiding her when she’s working in her garden.

It brings her comfort.

Julie Composes a Special Song for Her Father

Shortly after Brian became ill, Julie wrote a song just for him. A budding musician at that time, she recorded “A Moment in Time,” burned it on a disc and presented it to him on Christmas. It’s a beautiful song written for a beautiful man. It speaks of Julie’s love for her father and the positive impact his love and guidance had on her life.

The gift overwhelmed Brian with emotion, and he treasured every word Julie sang.

They both shared a love for country music. Brian recognized Julie’s singing talent and encouraged her to participate in the Tamworth Country Music Festival, one of the biggest music festivals in Australia. Brian and I had attended the festival shortly after his diagnosis. It was his dream that we return as a family and watch Julie sing.

We never returned to the festival as a family, but Julie did fulfill part of Brian’s wish by competing in the music awards. Shortly after he died, she went to Tamworth and sang “A Moment in Time” in his memory.

Although she didn’t win any awards at Tamworth, Julie has become an accomplished singer-song writer and has achieved much in her musical career. She has recorded two albums and performed in Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands to entertain troops stationed there.

While she’s proud of her accomplishments, Julie’s one regret is that her father wasn’t there to celebrate them with her.

Her music keeps his memory alive.

Fishing Keeps Clint’s Memory of His Father Alive

Clint and his wife, Dee, had three children when Brian died.

Kam, the eldest child, was around seven at the time and has some recollection of his grandfather, but his sisters, Shannon and Kylie, do not. It’s a shame they don’t remember their grandfather, but they were too young at the time. Brian loved all of his grandchildren dearly and was always spoiling them with one treat or another.

Clint misses his father greatly and regrets he couldn’t be there to see his grandchildren grow up.

However, Clint keeps his father’s memory alive by continuing to live the same lifestyle they once enjoyed together: Living in the far north of Australia, working hard and going fishing whenever the opportunity arises.

Without realizing it, Clint does a great deal to help us all cope with the absence of Brian in our lives. Whenever we visit, he takes us to places Brian loved to fish, and we feel incredibly close to him during those moments.

I felt Brian’s presence so acutely the last time I went out in the boat with Clint. I closed my eyes and imagined he was in the boat beside me. In that special moment, I felt I was coming home to the life I had known and loved for so many years of my life.

Michelle, Clint and Julie are still young. There will be many occasions in the future when their father’s presence will be sorely missed like Christmas, birthdays, engagements, weddings and grandchildren. The list goes on.

But my children are strong. They will live their lives to the full in their father’s memory.

This is exactly what Brian would have wanted: Proud to be the father of the wonderful individuals our children have become. I know I am.


Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net

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