The following is an amalgamation of both our stories as they are obviously intertwined, and since Don lost the ability to walk, talk, read or write in 1991 (owing to a severe head injury), his early years are based on my recollections of our previous conversations.
Don was born in Glasgow on 20th November, 1951. He had one older brother, two younger brothers and a younger sister. His father was a builder and his mother a seamstress. The whole family moved to Shrewsbury when Don was about 7 and started a bed-and-breakfast business. I gather he had a fairly free and happy childhood apart from school which he disliked intensely and played truant rather often! Many years later he attended Harlech University as a mature student and it was then that he discovered that he had a high IQ but was dyslexic, which explained a lot.
My childhood was completely opposite to Don’s, really. I have one older brother and our lives were regimented around church or church activities. We were not particularly happy and we both left home at 16. I went to do residential training to become a nursery nurse and eventually specialised in children with special needs. I married my first husband at far too early an age. It ended in disaster, although I do have my lovely two boys to show for it.
Don used to say he was aimless as a teenager and drank too much. He felt like a social misfit and when he heard about the Bahá’í Faith, felt he would never be able to live up to it, but later said he felt the Faith gave him a sense of direction and a purpose in life. I gather that he first heard about the Faith when he was in a pub with Bob Griffith. Apparently a Bahá’í, Rosa Bennett, in the Bridgenorth / Shrewsbury area, talked to them and said she had something more interesting for them to do and invited them to a public meeting. They both went and subsequently continued to attend meetings with the other Shrewsbury Baha’is including Dr. and Mrs Taeed, Rosa and her son Crispin, Mahboobeh and Brian Hallam, Pari Yeganeh, and others. Don particularly enjoyed having discussions regarding life after death, racial equality, world peace etc. He declared as a Baha’i in 1970 and eventually served on the Spiritual Assembly of Shrewsbury and became involved in the many teaching activities Shrewsbury had going on. He said it was difficult to give up alcohol and to overcome remarks from work as they thought he had become involved in a sect! Don was guided by Dr. Taeed and his wife, and he enjoyed being in a large community. Amongst the highlights of his Bahá’í life was going on pilgrimage with Mahboobeh and Brian Hallam, and introducing his sister Janeann (Mohseni) and myself to the Faith. Wherever he went, and whoever he met, he managed to bring the Faith, or at least its principles, to their attention.
Don’s and my families became intertwined through various factors in 1977 and although we had many conversations about the Faith, I wasn’t particularly interested as I was still attending the local church. However, when I had a few problems gaining sole custody of my boys, my parish priest was unable to help so Don suggested I read the Tablet of Ahmad, which I did several times. I definitely felt such power that I told my solicitor that although the judge at the hearing almost always gave joint custody, I felt something would prevent it. Just as we went into the courtroom we heard that the judge had been replaced by another who didn’t approve of joint custody, so I had my boys with no arguments. Needless to say, I thought I’d better look at this faith that performed miracles! I subsequently attended several meetings with my two boys plus Don’s own son and his two stepsons, all of whom were living with me at their mother’s request as she wasn’t well enough to cope with them. After the first few meetings, I was inveigled into taking children’s classes which were well attended, as Shrewsbury had a few Baha’i children then. I became a Baha’i in 1978.
By 1979, Don had been given sole custody of his son and stepsons who were still living with me, so we decided to marry and amalgamate the boys into one family. Financially we were in a poor state so we decided to move to Wales in 1980, as property tended to be much cheaper and we were able to knock down and re-build a house big enough for us all. I wanted to use my qualification for worthy purposes so as a family we decided to foster special needs children, which gave the boys the realisation there were youngsters less fortunate than themselves. However, when we applied for fostering, we were regarded as a special case and we had many long meetings because the Bahá’í faith was unknown to anyone in social services in Wales at the time. Obviously, we had to agree that we would respect the religion of the families of the children we fostered, but when we were approved, all the Bahá’í Holy Days were put in the foster carer’s diary. Unfortunately, the community we were then in didn’t really have facilities to accept children, especially as we had six, children and often more. The boys really needed to meet other Baha’i children of their own age. Fortunately, Bob and Tina Griffith brought their children for a week over the Christmas holidays for many years which helped. Sometimes David and Jean Powis joined us with their children as well. The age range was quite vast as ours were much older, but they held children’s classes for the younger ones and they all seemed to get on well. They were lovely times and great to look back on. Don was known locally for always being available to help others, which he maintained was the best way to teach the Faith. The other thing he wanted was to give all the boys a good moral grounding using the Bahá’í tenets and the boys were often congratulated on being such lovely children and were always given the Bahá’í Holy Days off from school and nearly always they then had to tell the class what they had done. At the first Naw-Rúz in our new house with both families we had a party and many of their teachers came, plus several social workers who were involved in our fostering application, which pleased Don no end. We also held many interesting firesides.
In 1991, our lives changed dramatically when Don suffered a severe head injury in an accident in Gibraltar, although he did eventually adapt very philosophically to his limitations and still continued to teach the faith in his own way. During those difficult months whilst he was in rehabilitation, I was very grateful to Joan Birch who contacted me regularly, and also George and Elsie Bowers who, once Don was home, came to say prayers and bring his favourite chocolate cake! Our boys all went out into the world in different ways but they came home as often as possible. Matthew, with his wealth of medical knowledge, became essential to Don’s physical wellbeing, and Patrick, with his love of the ridiculous, gave Don some amazingly fun times. As we had been fostering special needs children for some time, we continued to do so even when we moved to a small bungalow. However, by 1999 we decided to move to Sussex as our second grandchild was due and we felt we would like to be near the family.
After 12 years at home my health was failing too much so Don had to move to one of the Cheshire Homes near me, but I was able to see him every day and take him out often. We were fortunate that locally we met some lovely helpful Bahá’ís including Farzaneh Seegoolam and Margaret and Ranjit Appa. Don really loved being part of a large gathering and fortunately when Margaret and Ranjit moved, they kindly adapted their home so Don could attend their Open House days – and in fact he was instrumental in encouraging a friend, Pat Salter, to attend and was delighted when she eventually declared.
Don’s teaching consisted mainly of giving out leaflets, having his prayer books always to hand, and then enthusiastically nudging me forward to speak about the Faith. In like manner, whilst on his many stays in hospital, he introduced the Faith to a hospital chaplain and a Roman Catholic priest when they were visiting his ward. Many of his consultants and nurses, who all recognised him on his subsequent visits, often spoke with us about the Faith. In 2019, we were fortunately offered a flatlet in a retirement complex with carers on hand when needed, and many of them were given small prayer books by Don as presents. They often read prayers to him at the end of their call, and commented that they were both universal and soothing, so much so, that after his passing, one particular carer said she had been honoured to read his favourite Bahá’í prayer at his funeral.
Family was very important to Don. He loved us all, including his son Adrian (who unfortunately died in 2012), his stepsons, their lovely wives and extended family, but as with so many of us grandparents, his grandchildren were his pride and joy!
Don left a legacy of humour, a winning smile, and his deep love of the Faith. Indeed, even the staff at his burial ground, having met him on a few occasions, often say that his plaque sums him up perfectly. It’s the quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
I want you to be happy, laugh, smile and rejoice, in order that others may be made happy by you.
It has been suggested that I include the following passage, taken from a beautiful tribute given by Matthew Bourne (Don’s step-son) at Don’s funeral last year:
My Step-Dad, Don Love, passed away in the early hours of this morning (7th July 2021). He became my ‘Dad’ when I was 8 years old and was always a huge figure; physically strong as an ox, practical and loving. He brought his family and our family together into one large family ‘unit’. When he was just 39 years old he was assaulted whilst in Gibraltar but found on the Spanish mainland (we’ll never know what happened for sure) and his life and our family’s changed dramatically and irreversibly.
With Dad in a coma, with a severe head injury, my mum (Margaret) used all of her life savings to fly him back home by air ambulance where we were told he would be comatose for the rest of his days…(but) mum worked miracles and never gave up on him, and gradually he came out of the coma. Unable to move any of his right side, wheelchair bound and with limited binary vocabulary she brought him back into society where he absolutely loved seeing people, loved watching his grandchildren play cricket and being part of Chippingdale Cricket Club, loved family celebrations, loved being involved with his faith as a Bahá’í and was an amazing character with a devilish sense of humour. You never knew exactly how much he was understanding or taking in but then he’d suddenly laugh at a comment that someone had made and you’d know he had been taking it in all along!
It may not have been the life he would have expected to live, being a huge, practical and active man, but he most certainly had a quality of life. He endured more than we will ever know but he endured it with a smile and the odd ‘Aw Gawd’! He recovered from sepsis more than seven times in the last few years but each bout took its toll. Even during his last few days, he refused to give up but now he is at peace.
He will be sorely missed by all who knew him just by his very presence, his smile and his expressive eyebrows! We are blessed that we have had all these extra years and he has been able to be a part of his grandchildren’s lives and able to see them grow up. He was so very proud of us all; he loved his photos and he absolutely loved his Facebook ‘Likes’! It goes to show always live life with a smile on your face. Tomorrow is never promised and none of us knows what is around the corner. His Facebook Cover photo says it all “I want you to be happy…to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you” (attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
You may not have been my father, but you most certainly are my Dad. RIP soar high, soar free.
Sussex, May 2022