Farewell, good father

I don’t write this column to share family stories. I write to demonstrate how God meets us, whoever we are; where we are, every day, any place, all the time. How Jesus walks beside us, no matter our chosen paths. How he connects our horizontal with his vertical, and layer by layer, peels back our resistance, wooing us with love.

The best way I know to do that is to open my life to you. Sometimes, words leak out slow, like Roger’s Golden Syrup used to, a lazy stream of amber pleasure. Sometimes, when I’m ecstatic or angry, puzzled or hurting, words spill fast onto my page. That’s today.

I’m an orphan at 63. Daddy breathed his last just a few hours before this writing. He left my siblings and I without earthly parents, but never without the care of our Heavenly Father.

I’ve written often about my good father. Memories pulsate like flashing strobes today. Dad, running beside my bike, teaching me to ride. Dad, galloping to embrace me the day a train almost crushed my small body. Dad, strap in hand sternly reminding us of the importance of obedience. (Yes, he disciplined (but never abused) his children. I’m grateful he cared enough to do so.) Dad, leaping from behind me onto Rusty’s rump (my cousins’ Shetland pony), then gripping me tightly and roaring in laughter as the spooked beast reared, then charged forward like a war horse. Dad, seated at the kitchen table, his worn Bible open. Dad, gleeful, distributing our Christmas gifts on Christmas morning. Dad, hammer (saw, pliers, clamps, name any tool) in hand, whistling—often “We’ll work till Jesus comes.” Dad, (farm boy at heart) mowing his tiny city lawn with an oversized lawn tractor. Dad, fighting tears while telling us a story, every story. (He had leaky eyes, and soft heart.) Dad, patiently curling my mother’s hair. Dad, riding his senior’s tricycle as I walked beside him—an ironic reversal of roles established a half-century earlier. Dad, head thrown back, laughing. Dad, praying. Singing. Whistling.

The memories refuse to be dammed.

Sorrow and joy often tussle for the upper hand, but I’ve learned they can hold hands sometimes. I don’t know why God allowed Daddy to spend the last five months in pandemic isolation, without family company except on the other side of the window. But I’m grateful for a wonderful care facility, where loving staff treated him like family. I don’t know why Dad battled for each breath for five days before his strong body acceded defeat. But I’m grateful my BC siblings could spend time with him at the end, praying for rest. I don’t know why COVID descended, making it impossible for me to travel to Dad’s graveside service. But I’m grateful technology allowed me to sing and pray with him one last time, in his good ear. And I’m grateful God accompanies us through death’s shadowed valley and carries his children home to blessed reunions.

Grief is a long debt, but it must be paid. My installments begin today.

Our last outing…2018, I think.