where to

My father defied definition. He was a force.Whether of nature or not I am uncertain, yet he taught me so much, and nothing at all. He shared family history with my brother. He shared magic with me. Mostly tricks that he either explained, laughing, or I figured out to his delight. But something else. I wish I could put into words…

He taught me whenever anyone thinks they know it all they are dead. We never stop learning. He taught me to play chess. He showed me how to dig sand fleas for bait when surf fishing. He took me to Lincoln Center to see the magic of the Nutcracker ballet. We sat at a table with a beaten up aging boxer and his girlfriend at IMG_0088.JPGPaddy’s Clam House to eat lobster. We sang the Air Force “Wild Blue Yonder” and the Army marching song though he was with the FBI during the war because of a mountain climbing accident. But as I grew up we became contentious. We argued about just about everything. I reached an age where neither he nor anyone could teach me anything — I knew it all.

Of course, I didn’t, but our arguments were legend. When I worked for his company the shouting matches caused more than a few employees to quit and I couldn’t blame them.

We especially argued about Christians. Faith. Dad had always been a man’s man, self-made, self-sufficient. He saw Christians as weak, helpless, dependent. Almost like welfare recipients which he had complete disregard for. And emotions ran high when we had arguments about God, or Jesus or anything that was a large part of my faith. So we stopped talking.

That was not the answer. Eventually we began talking again but not about religion. Then he got older, began getting sick. Looking back I wish I’d done so much more. I wish I had read the book of Acts to him. He’d especially have admired Paul I think when he was shipwrecked. Dad loved sailing, all things maritime really and I think this might have hooked him at least a little into being interested in Christians. Especially how Paul became one. Earth-shattering if anything could be.

There are many places in the Bible where heaven is described. Ezekiel, where that contraption with flashing wheels and the being with the heads of an eagle and a lion, wings, talons… nothing I can visualize well, no matter how many times I read it. I also believe heaven is nothing like we can imagine so anyone that tries has to use the words we know which probably don’t even come close.

Dad became very sick after a fall where he broke 7 ribs and went through three or four bouts of pneumonia. My brother called me to tell me Dad’s doctor had told him we needed to be with Dad. So we flew home. Dad was in intensive care and the nurses kindly allowed us to stay with Dad all day. One morning one of his therapists came in to work on opening Dad’s lungs after breakfast. Dad had fallen asleep after eating. This was no small man. Nothing he did or said could wake Dad. He came back an hour or so later, same thing. Dad slept on. Throughout the day various people came to do things or speak with Dad, no response. Sleeping soundly.

At around 5 that afternoon Dad woke. He opened his eyes, blinking slowly and looked around the room. “Is this Heaven?” he said.

I asked him if he could tell us where he had been, what he had seen. He would begin a sentence only to stop abruptly, then begin again, stop again. I realized he’d been given a wonderful gift.

A friend of mine, a Priest, who I’d asked to visit Dad came by just after. I told him about Dad’s day, how no one and nothing would wake him, what he’d said upon waking. My friend slowly smiled. He sat with us a bit, asked a prayer then left.

Sometimes people, badly bruised and hardened by life’s knocks, twists and turns, are shown what is ahead for them. We none of us ever truly knows another’s heart.

God does.

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The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.   –Isaiah 40:8

10 thoughts on “where to

  1. It is very good to hear of the renewal of your relationship with your father. One of the ten commandments is to honor our parents, and I worked hard at that injunction, because my father had been hard on me as a child. I was often tempted to show him where he had been wrong. But I was careful, and rewarded with a close relationship with him late in his life. I was with him when he died, and he said goodbye to me in his own bed, and apologized to his wife, my mother for any sadness he brought her in their life together, and then he pulled the blanket over his head and died in good health at 97. It was an example to me, but who knows…

    • Thank you. Volatile may be a good descriptor for Dad and me. He used to say it was because we were so alike. An honor I could never accept somehow. Your father sounds exceptionally wise. And strong.

      • It’s very hard for us to judge our parents, because we don’t always know how they got to be the way they were when we were growing up. They too had difficulties in childhood, and are often still trying to overcome their difficulties when they are bringing up their children.

      • Even as I adored my father i’m afraid I failed miserably at showing it, though he shunned outward affection he enjoyed high intellect.

  2. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I was with my father when he passed – holding his hand. I had fallen asleep with my head on the railing of his hospital bed, and I felt someone put an arm around my shoulders. I woke up, and he was soon gone. I’ve always believed my sister, who had passed some years earlier, came to lead him home, and to give me some comfort in that moment.

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