Thursday will be my father’s 77th birthday. Last Tuesday was the 2nd anniversary of his death.
This morning as I sat in church, my thoughts inevitably turned to my father, a Moravian pastor. He had 70+ years of good health, then 4 and a half years of ill health prior to his death. At the time of his life-altering aortic dissection and stroke, he was playing golf, mowing his yard, and teaching his 10-year-old grandson basketball. Of course, we expected him to live forever. He was a kind, calming influence with a dry wit and balanced approach to life’s challenges. His childhood was undeservedly difficult, but he persevered, served God and others, married wisely, and made good choices. Still, at the time of his death he was a shadow of himself, unable to do nearly everything that brought him satisfaction or joy. Why?
Why? It’s a question I’ve never expected to answer but continue to ask. Please don’t tell me it’s God’s plan. I cannot believe in a God who would cause something so tragic to befall this faithful servant. Every day, our family – my mom, my sister, myself, our husbands, our children – every day, we suffer his loss. We feel his absence keenly and we grieve. We miss him terribly.
We know we were blessed to have had him in our lives . . . to have benefited from his unconditional love, his quiet wisdom, his supportive presence, his back pats and shaking shoulders, his uplifting humor, his gentle manner. I think of people estranged from loved ones, or those who knew only an abusive or absent father. I realize it is a gift to miss my beloved daddy.
And he’s among us still. Echoes of my father resonate in the sure strides of his grandson Jake on the lacrosse field, in the corny puns of his colleague John, in the lush green of the 18th hole, in Andy Griffith’s southern drawl, in our pastor Stuart as he serves communion in his crisp, white surplice. We sense Granddaddy’s approval when celebrating the achievements of his wonderfully talented grandchildren, and of course, when the Braves or Panthers win.
My dad would “knock a hickey on my head” if I left you with the impression that I blame God for life simply happening. With us every step of this difficult journey is the very God my father served with such devotion. God gave us strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights. God showed up in the form of caring friends and thoughtful volunteers. God still provides inspiration and solace through scripture and prayer. And it’s God who links us to these precious echoes of my father each and every day.
So, yes, God, I get it. And Daddy, please know how blessed we are to miss you terribly.