My dad was a fundamentalist born-again hellfire preacher, and I grew up in a very antagonistic relationship with him. My normality as a teenager was hoping new girlfriends wouldn’t notice the faith-healing, amens and hallelujahs going on in the front room. I left home as soon as I could and it took me over a decade to sort out the mess that kind of religion leaves you with. Then I was able to notice the man my friends had – funny, eccentric, generous (he loved cartoons, he regularly gave away more money than he could afford, he taught himself Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic so he could read ‘what the bible really said’). We still disagreed on almost everything, but we found we had a lot of common interests.
Shortly before he died he gave me his sermons. It was a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek gesture from him (mixed with some earnestness). They’re dated, with where he preached and what hymns they sang, and they're passionately annotated and reworked. They were the thing that I most wanted, because they were him put down on paper. I can never read more than a couple of lines though, because they’re so intolerant, aggressive and angry, and that’s not how I want to remember him. But that’s also why they’re so great, because their accidental message to me is about not being too hasty to dismiss someone because I dislike their attitudes. I’d have missed some great conversations that way. My heirloom reminds me that we’re all weird, and we only think we aren't because we choose friends who are weird in the same way as us.