Norton George Whiting
22nd February 1926 – 30th April 2017
My Dad was a peaceful man of water spirit, with a compassionate Piscean Sun and sensitive Cancer Moon who found the conflict, corruption and abuse rife in the world baffling. He wrote poetry in 2014, some of which will feature here:
I love to walk in the woods at night
when all silent quiet and moon is bright
the wind is whispering in the trees
there also is a very slight breeze
a hedgehog rumbles across my path
a scuttle in the grass a rabbit has just run by
a barking fox in the distance I hear
a bellowing stag is standing near
a small brown owl hoots from a tree
as much to say he wishes he was me
but now I must return to the outside world of turmoil
Norton was a nature man who grew up on farmland and was blessed with a natural sensitivity that gave him the gift of animal magic, animals trusted him, he was something of a horse whisperer. In his retirement he kept a horse Patch and took great delight in driving his pony and trap around the Suffolk villages.
He had a long retirement, nearly 30 years, after 30 years working shifts at ICI Paints. He embraced retirement joyfully, taking the opportunity not only to keep a horse but also to express his passion for gardening, keeping his own garden immaculate, his lawn neat, and looking after other, bigger gardens, such as for the Anstead family in Old Newton.
Norton was a shy romantic. He had a gypsy in his soul and often dreamt of a simpler life travelling the land in a horse drawn caravan. His parents Blanche and George had 7 kids; one daughter, Renee, and 6 sons, Norton the oldest son. He grew up working on the land and although his life changed, ending up all those years in factory warehouse and living since 1970 in Crown Street, Stowmarket, he still had, in his later life, connection to the place of inner peace and sense of the natural order of things, that growing up with nature had given him.
O why wasn’t I born a tree? To stand in a field and watch the world go by,
To stand with great ease to sway in the breeze. O why wasn’t I born a tree?
If I was a tree I would stand and smile at everyone that crossed my stile.
The wind it could blow, we might even have snow, then that would be my life as a tree.
He met his wife-to-be Rona at a dance hall in the village of Thorndon in the late 1940s, though he, the shy gypsy, was not a dancer. The pace of life was much slower in those days, and I believe they were courting for perhaps a decade, him cycling across the Suffolk countryside to visit his sweetheart, before they tied the knot.
Rona and Norton were married in October 1954, that’s 63 years together, the last decade or so he showing his devotion by caring for my mum as she became less able. After so many years of her dedicating herself to looking after him and me, the roles swapped and he became the housekeeper and chef, even learning to bake fabulous apple pies as good as Rona’s.
Two Pisceans, with suitable names, Rona was born a Haddock and became a Whiting. They brought up this Aquarian, who has moved out into the world to become a teacher of love and spirit, our quiet little family in a way symbolises the shift of the ages on planet earth from Pisces to Aquarius. Rona and Norton were not destined to have a family of their own, but twists of fate brought me to them, to their little cottage on Stowupland Green where they kept their chickens and a pig, maintaining the link to living with nature that had been part of the upbringing of both of them, a central part of their family histories.
They come from a long line of people of the land, people who have a sense of the natural flow of life and death and the interdependence of people, animals and plants. For this foundling faerie child they provided a loving, protective, safe environment, and when I turned out to be somebody motivated to go out explore the world, they adapted to that, they coped with my colourful haircuts and colourful friends, when I brought boyfriends home to stay they always welcomed them into their hearts.
Norton lived a simple, full life. Don’t get caught up in the nonsense, could have been his motto. ‘As long as you’re all right, that’s the main thing’ was his defining phrase. He enjoyed pretty good health right up until his 91st year, and the end came quickly and with mercy, over the course of four months, following a prostate cancer diagnosis. Here’s another of his poems ….
As I lay asleep in my bed at night
and in my dreams I dream of time past
I dream of my friends that have long passed
yet they come back to me
as if it were yesterday doing the things in work and play
if only it was yesterday
Norton had led a good life, his karma was good and his soul was able to detach without too much struggle. He began to see the spirit world in his final months and I was glad to encourage him to tell me what he saw, because I had had my own initiation with death 20 years ago which brought home to me that we are souls on an eternal journey, not just bodies having a random experience, that the spirit world is as real, or more real even than the physical, and that love is what connects it all and makes existence rich, rewarding and divine.
I have come to see that the straightforward no-nonsense, unconditional love that my parents Rona and Norton both blessed me with and inspired in me as a child was the greatest gift possible, it set me up for life. I have danced with Native Americans, smoked chillums with Hindu Saddhu holy men, and been a key player in the development of a spiritual tribe of gay-lesbian-bi-trans people in the UK, but all this is rooted in the simple loving wisdom my Suffolk parents nurtured in me. Dad and I were able to have conversations in his final weeks about god, Jesus, heaven and hell, and I felt happy to be able to offer him the reassurance and confidence I feel about the journey out of life that we all have to take.
When he left he went peacefully, having been surrounded by love during his last hours on earth, with me, mum, cousin Leonard and wife Brenda, brother Geoff and wife Hilda at his side. And he left at Beltane Eve, 30th April, when the pagan calendar tells us the veils between the human and spirit worlds are thin, like at hallowe’en. Norton was a true Suffolk gentle-man, a lovely soul, carrying more wisdom than he perhaps let us see: he wrote this last poem a few years ago and there are several copies of it in his notebooks. He definitely wanted me to find it, and in fact he asked that it be read at his funeral….
Do not cry or shed tears
For I am not here I am in the far horizon
Where there is no time, clouds or land to see
I shall one day return, but not as me, so just remember me.
I think it’s ok to shed tears, but also ok to move to a place of acceptance, after all death will take us all. It is ok to let spiritual peace come and bid him a very fond farewell. Dad nurtured a feeling of protection and safety and love of nature in me as a child, which prompted me to share this song at his funeral, one he used to sing to me….
Click here to watch: The Fox by Harry Belafonte on 1954 RCA Victor LP. – YouTube
Norton we miss you and bless you on your journey through spirit and into another lifetime.