"It's our job as parents to prepare you for life."- Jim McCrae
James (Jim, as he preferred to be called) McCrae was born on the 21st of July, 1939, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Just weeks after his birth, WW2 began. Dad's early childhood was one that included bombing and rationing, and even after the war, his childhood was not a pleasant one. He was one of five children, and his parents struggled to put food on the table for all of them.
My grandparents Horace and Jessie
The McCrae Siblings. Dad is second from the back on the left of the picture
Despite this poor background, Dad was a bright child and was selected to attend the Aberdeen Grammar school, which ironically was one of the worst things that ever happened to him. He went from being the top of his class to second-bottom, and he was ridiculed and bullied because of his background. Dad responded by becoming a bully himself and playing truant.
On top of this, Dad was exposed to death and abuse at an early age. His friend was run over by a coal truck right in front of dad when he was just five years old. His brother Ian succumbed to Hodgkins when Dad was ten. Then, when he was eighteen, his mother died, as well as his neighbours "Ma" and "Da" Fraser who, as the names suggest, were like adoptive parents to him. In addition to this, Dad had a poor relationship with his own father. His dad never praised him, never took the family anywhere, and used to beat my dad up for the slightest misdemeanour.
My Uncle Ian. My Middle name is Ian in his honour.
Dad (far left) would always go on about going to the dances as a teenager.
However at the age of 18, Dad put all that behind him and joined the army. In this setting he thrived. He served four years in Singapore and eight in Germany. He become the youngest Warrant Officer in the history of the British Army and met his first wife Pat, who he had three children with.
Dad (third from right) and Friends on his 21st
Dad and first wife Pat
Yet, when he left the army, Dad was lost. His father died when Dad was thirty, his marriage with Pat was deteriorating, and he had no idea of what to do next. He ended up working in insurance, earning lots of money but not a lot of happiness and he separated from Pat.
In his late forties, through several chance encounters, Dad discovered the Spiritualist movement. It was here that he discovered he was a healer, able to use his energy to relieve pain and aliments in others. Among the healers, psychics and mediums, Dad found sense of belonging that he had not felt since his army days.
Dad's Army Record
Dad in Morroco
It was through this community that Dad met my mother Sarah, and, at the age of 53, he did something crazy. He had his fourth child: Me. Dad was an old man before I was even born, and I benefited from all that life experience and wisdom he had accumulated.
Dad was always trying to teach me lessons in Spirituality, Psychology, Philosophy and Personal Development. We would listen to tapes by Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra in the car when I was only around 7 or 8 years old. It was Dad who first suggested that I study Psychology, and it was that decision that sent me onto the path that I am walking on now. At lot of his teachings fell on deaf ears in my teenage years, but I realised the value of his teaching as I got older.
Mum and Dad's Marriage
My first introduction to Personal Development
Dad was incredibly supportive of me throughout both tough times and triumph. When I was an obese and shy 13-year-old, he supported me throughout my physical and social transformation. He gave me space as I struggled with my mental health issues, knowing that conquering them myself would make me stronger. He was my proofreader for my first two novels. I was so pleased when, in my final year of university, I called him to tell him that I was going to be launching a business when I graduated. I wanted to let him know that he had succeeded as a parent.
Completing a Triathlon at 17. Something my 13-year-old self would've considered impossible.
My first book: Innocence Lost
Dad, however, had one final lesson to teach me. Just a month after I had told him the good news, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and given 6-8 months to live. He kept this secret from me so that I could finish my last year of university without distraction. When he told me on May 27th 2015, my world was shattered. From this point, dad's health deteriorated and he was unable to travel to my graduation. He was taken into hospital and, on July 23rd, I got the call that Dad was entering his final days.
The letter that broke the secret.
Speaking to Dad just after my Graduation Ceremony
I traveled back home on July 24th, unaware of what I was about to face. Dad was near the end, but he remained strong and held on until I arrived at his room just past 4pm. The rest of the family left us alone and I am so grateful that I had this opportunity to thank Dad for doing a fantastic job of raising me, that I was very proud to be his son, and that I loved him. Dad, pragmatic parent to the end, responded by telling me the pin numbers to his bank accounts!
As his breathing slowed, the family gathered round. I kissed Dad goodbye on his big baldy head and held his hand as he passed at just past 5pm, less than an hour after I had arrived. As his head rolled to the side and was still, I think I saw a smile.
Dad had one final lesson to teach me. There is nothing like death to give you perspective on life. It has made me realise how important it is to live a life of love, rather than hate. To chase your dreams, rather than count your regrets. To seek and cultivate happiness at every opportunity, rather than wallow in mediocrity and misery. Dad’s death has been my biggest hardship, but also my biggest blessing. Any time I feel tired, or demotivated, or hopeless, I remember that if I quit, then that is the death of everything Dad hoped I could achieve in my life. It is a most powerful source of inspiration and motivation, and it was Dad’s final gift to me.
And so Dad's message lives on through me. Like him I am also spiritually minded: I believe in life after death, and I believe he is still keeping an eye on me and guiding my progress. I created this section of the website firstly because so much of my work has been inspired by Dad, secondly because I think Dad can continue to teach even after death. I interviewed him about his life and lessons he had learnt shortly before he died. You can listen to the highlights of that interview to the right. He also had a host of unpublished notes and manuscripts that even I haven't read yet. I will be sorting through these as time goes on and sharing whatever insight I get from those too.
Jim McCrae 21/07/1939-24/07/2015