That’s a picture of my Dad.
He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly four years ago today.
I was 42 years old at the time, and to put it plainly, I had been remarkably blessed in terms of family. My mother and father were still happily married to each other and loved each other. We only moved once in my childhood, and it was to a fantastic neighborhood. My brother and I grew up surrounded by relatives and friends with financial and emotional security. These can only be described as blessings.
I myself was happily married with six children. Moreover, both my husband and I both worked from home, so we were in a position to be able to spend months at a time either with my parents at their home, or vacationing with them, what have you. Things were good. The kids all really got to know and make connections with their grandparents.
I had a conversation with my Dad a few months before he passed away. I asked him, point blank if he ever had any fears of dying, particularly since he was getting up in years and was closer to it than ever before. His reply was immediate, and completely sincere.
“No, not at all. Why should I be afraid? I’ve had my three-score and ten…when you and Jason were little, I figured it wasn’t a good time to die because the kids needed me. But now there’s the grand kids, and they kind of need me too… (laughs) I guess it’s never really a good time to die – but I’m ready to go whenever the Lord calls me.”
He meant that. But that’s not the most important of the last things I learned from my father. To say that I was devastated by his death is something of an understatement. I’m a reasonably grounded, solid kind of person. And although in retrospect I can say that my Dad and I were close, I didn’t think of it as anything particularly noteworthy during his lifetime. Our relationship was just a part of my reality…and when he died, the rug was pulled out from under me.
For the first time in my life, I had to worry about my mother. (Who incidentally is fine.) I suddenly knew what it was like not to have a Dad. And frankly, being fatherless is the pits. Simple things, like if I needed wood hauled, or a bug killed, or a critter trapped, and my husband was moving too slowly on it, I could always call my Dad…but now I can’t.
I didn’t speak at his funeral. I couldn’t. I regret that, but realistically, I didn’t have it in me to say a word then. I could only grieve and be shell-shocked. My little brother who is 10 years my junior handled everything, while I fell completely apart. It was the first time I realized what a remarkable man my baby brother has become. He’s strong, dependable, organized, decisive and comforting. I thanked God for him.
When we went to see Dad in repose at the funeral parlor for the first time, I was barely keeping it together. For the sake of my children, who were there with us, I had to maintain some semblance of dignity. It just wouldn’t do to act like a great, big, old Madea mess. So I put on as brave a face as I could, leaned heavily on Dan, and I went in.
It looked just like he was sleeping. But that wasn’t the remarkable thing. Something was unmistakeably missing. The obvious answer is “Yeah, his life.” But that’s not it…every time I had ever been in geographic proximity to my father, there had been a little “leap” or “tug” or acknowledgement between us. Something in me would automatically greet that same something in him. Sort of like an invisible, silent “hey.” Our souls had been connected somehow. And I NEVER noticed it until I experienced the lack of it. Truly.
I stared at him, wondering about the implication of the missing…thing. My Dad was not in that body. I knew it with every fiber of my being. Later I learned that energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be moved or transformed. My father’s soul and body had parted. And that meant that he most certainly had a soul, because I could feel it plain as day when it was someplace else. Which also meant I too must have a soul, because it could communicate with my father’s when he was alive.
My faith became a certainty that day. I was already a believer before he died. So was he. But after he died, it wasn’t just a belief or a hope, it was a fact. There’s something more to people than an mild electromagnetic charge, flesh and bones. More than the ability to breathe and communicate. There is something else in a person. I know it because of what I learned when my father died.
Incidentally, I should add that since then, I’m far more aware of these soul-to-soul connections. I have them strongest with my husband, children, my mom and my relatives. If you pay attention, you’ll realize that you have them too.
Family is powerful.
Love is eternal.
God is merciful.
There is a such thing as heaven.
The last thing I learned was this. I was saying the Lord’s prayer and I realized something about the character of God that had previously eluded me. You see, I know my Earthly father and he knows me. He was kind, generous, and wanted what was best for me. He had good intentions. So even when he forced me to learn to change a tire and work on cars (something I was loathe to do) – it was for my own good. Even my bad attitude, and whining and complaining wouldn’t deter my Dad from telling me “no” about something or requiring me to do or learn something that I didn’t want. Even in my frustration with him, I knew that always, my father meant well for me.
And he KNOWS me…he knows full well what what things will hurt my feelings, or what’s likely to bring me joy. Likewise, when my Heavenly Father allows trials and hardships, doesn’t He know me even more than my Earthly father does? Doesn’t he love me even more? Shouldn’t I trust God The Father at least as much as I trusted Ben, my father on Earth?
If I could trust the man God used to bring me to life, shouldn’t I trust the God who gave us life all the more? (And even if I can’t wrap my mind around that, knowing my Dad is in heaven, he’d certainly intercede on my behalf when I face a trial or hardship.) And yet, he wouldn’t have to. You know why? Because the Bible tells us that Lord Jesus himself is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us!
The last things I learned from my Dad were:
About our souls.
About God the Father,
And Jesus the Son.