All my life I have looked for connections to him. I barely lived with him two years of my life, so we never knew each other in the everyday. We had an every other weekend kind of relationship. I knew I had inherited his blue eyes and dark hair, along with his love of learning and reading. The things I knew of him were mostly from observation. He thoroughly enjoyed a crossword puzzle. He valued his brothers and sisters, and especially his mom. He liked to tell stories about growing up and share the history of the small town, and its people, where he spent his life. He was gentle, easy-going, and flirtatious; teasing us and making us laugh. He was a non-confrontational man. I learned this when he told me no, and then gave in as I proceeded to throw a fit. He would sing songs while my sister and I sat with him in the front seat of his car. I can still hear, “It’s a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille (Loose Wheel)” and “You Are My Sunshine.” I knew he loved me. I came to understand that neither of us would have chosen this path, but it was ours and we belonged to each other.
He went in for a simple test. Things happened, some say mistakes. Whatever it was, why-ever it happened I count it as a blessing. I spent hours upon hours just being with him. He still teased and made us laugh. He would break out in song unexpectedly, this time without the radio. During this time I also got to know him as a stubborn, occasionally grumpy man. Someone who had a hard time being still and was always ready to go somewhere. I learned he was a faithful friend who had many lifetime friends. I found out he studied how things were built when he went into a place, and that he took notice of interesting architecture. I asked him about his father who had passed before I was born. He told me his dad was the smartest man he had ever known even though he had a limited education. I learned my dad had lived with much guilt. He regretted not being there for me, giving me advice, and sharing his life’s wisdom.
In his last days I found connections. The more time I spent with my dad, the more I saw myself in him. One night when he was especially restless and couldn’t sleep, I did the only thing I knew to do, the same thing I had done with my kids from the time they were small, something I had learned from him. I begin to sing to him. This time it was Amazing Grace. He settled down and began to sing with me, “How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found…” Later as we were talking, I brought up a topic that has always been difficult to talk to him about. I told him what God has shown me about His forgiveness, and how Jesus loves us and forgives even when we can’t forgive ourselves. He told me how my grandma, his mom, had believed in Jesus with a vengeance (his words). I asked, “What about you? Do you believe?” He nodded as tears filled his eyes and I hugged him and cried. It was weeks later that he would pass and I would question what that conversation meant, if my dad truly knew that he could have a relationship with this God who is unseen to the naked eye. The other day I was talking to a friend about all this when she asked, “What do you know about God’s character?” Tears flooded my eyes and I knew. The Truth that had pierced my heart so many years ago, had pierced it again. We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19) It is not about us and what we can do, it is about Him and what He has already done.
Three months after my dad simply went in for a test, he took his last breath. It was the shortest and longest three months of my life. My heart is broken. I miss those carefree weekends as a child. I miss those sweet hours in the hospital just being together. This wasn’t the path either of us would have chosen, but it was the path that brought us together.