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don't look down
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Béal Feirste
Katherine relates how the passing of her father gave her the determination to work hard and succeed (dailymail.co.uk):
I was born in 1980 and raised in a blissfully happy house in Neath, South Wales. Two years after me, my sister Laura was born. Our mother, Susan, was a radiographer and became the family's main breadwinner after my father Selwyn, a factory worker 23 years her senior, took early retirement and became a house-dad.
My future was decided at the age of four when I won a singing contest.
I was smitten. When I was seven, I joined the choir at the local church, where Mum was a Sunday school teacher. Classical and religious music became a passion. In 1991 I won the Welsh Choir Girl Of The Year competition and started to get bookings for village concerts and weddings.
But a catastrophe was lurking in the wings: Dad developed lung cancer. I was 15 and, until then, he had always been so exuberant. I had not fully appreciated that he was nearly 70 years old. He had always smoked and he continued now. I got really upset and had a go at him: "Why are you still smoking?" I asked, angrily. "You've got lung cancer, Dad."
"Katherine," Mum said later, "smoking's not going to make any difference now. If it makes him happy, let him smoke."
I was in denial and kept hoping he would recover, so when he was taken into a special cancer hospice in Swansea I was heartbroken. Everyone at school was really understanding. The teachers kept saying: "If you need some time off, Katherine, that's fine."
But my GCSEs were approaching. Dad had always been so supportive of my schoolwork and my singing, but I felt really guilty about concentrating on revising while he was so ill. If I could have that time over again I'd spend so much more of it with him.
Two days before I was due to finish school, Dad slipped into a coma. Mum, Laura and I stayed with him in the little self-contained flat in the hospice. When a nurse came in to check on Dad, she could see my distress and said: "You know, although your dad is in a coma, he can hear you." So I sat there, holding his hand, and between sobs I managed to tell him how much I loved him.
The next day, my Auntie Jo told Laura and me she was taking us home to give us something to eat. I was pretty sure Mum knew what was about to happen and wanted to minimise the distress for us. As we pulled up outside the hospice on our return, I knew we were too late. Dad had just passed away.
Within a few days of the funeral, my exams started. What helped me get through them was an extraordinary experience I had the night before my maths exam, when Dad came to me in a dream saying: "Look under the bed, love."
Suddenly wide awake, I did as he had instructed and, to my surprise, found a maths notebook in which I had written just one thing: an algebra equation. I was such a swot that to find one page of a book that I hadn't studied filled me with dread. So I studied it, then went back to sleep.
In the exam, there on the last page was an algebra question that, unbelievably, needed the equation I had read that morning. After that exam, everyone was saying: "Oh, my God, wasn't that last question hard?" But I got an "A".
I am sure my drive to succeed came from knowing Dad had given so much time and energy to me. I went to Gorseinon College in Swansea to do my A-levels. While there, I sang in the college choir at the Brangwyn Hall one night. As the soloist in O Holy Night, I had just reached the Top B in the last line when there was a sudden bang. Everybody in the audience gasped, convinced there had been some kind of explosion.
As I finished the carol, I looked up and saw all these fragments of glass falling from the ceiling and showering the people below. I realised that my top note had shattered the glass panels of one of the lights. Luckily, nobody was hurt.
The principal at Gorseinon suggested I should go to music college and, when I won a place at the Royal Academy of Music, I knew Dad would have been so proud.
When I was a child I was forever singing to him, and now I'm grown up, I still sing for him.
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You're perfect, yes, it's true. But without me, you're only you.
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