My father passed away on February 20. I spent 12 years dealing with the tragedy of his disease. Now, I am free to experience the sorrow of this loss. My father was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved him very much and I always will.
On Christmas night I visited him in the nursing home. I took my children and he thought they were his. He cried harder than I’ve ever heard him cry, his body quaking with incalculable grief and heartache.
With all my children by my side, I knelt at his bedside and I prayed for him. I told him something it took me a decade to say: “You do not have to suffer like this anymore, Daddy. You can let go and be with Jesus.” He cried so hard, and less than two months later, he was gone.
But, not really. Every time I call forth a thought or memory, he is here, sitting with me.
I have a pattern of disappearing into myself and work when I go through difficult times. I stop writing my reflections for fear the weight of sadness will flatten me like one of those road rollers the highway construction guys use when they’re laying asphalt. But, this time will be different.
In the hours and days after my father’s death, he was amazed by how much I’d changed. He was so curious to find me 46. He’d been locked up in his body for so long, his mind, his thoughts trapped by Alzheimer’s. When he died he must have thought I was six. He thought my son Sullivan was my older brother. He wondered what caused the light that once burned so bright in me to dim. He was an amazing father.
The day after what would have been his 84th birthday (March 4), I saw a bright red cardinal in the snow in my front yard. The next day, I saw a blue jay, and this morning, a big fat robin. My father loved birds, and with each one I saw, I felt him watching over me. He is with me more now than he was during the 12 years he was institutionalized in a nursing home. This is the tragedy I will never get over. His death brings the gift of healing, but I have many miles of grief in front of me to travel.
There are great changes afoot in my life, now. I have important decisions to make about how I’m going to live the rest of my life. In the moments before my father died, I was driving in my car. I felt him reaching out to me and passing overhead. I was reaching back and touching him and nothing can ever separate us from the love we had for each other. I am so glad he is with me again, and I want him to see me happy.
My father was a sailor who taught me to build my hope on nothing less than the solid rock of Christ Jesus. He taught me that love could lift me back to the peaceful shore. Sometimes, I get sideways, but not for long. “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
I love you, Father. Stay with me now, and always. I missed you so much while you were away.