One year ago today, I became an orphan. After a brutal 3 years in which he lost his church, his wife, and his health, my dad finally breathed his last breath. To be honest, I was kind of surprised that he had lasted that long. Men half his age would have had a hard time enduring all that had come across his path during that time.
It’s hard to believe, in some ways, that it’s only been a year. It felt like I had been anticipating the day for such a long time that, when it finally came, it felt almost like I was able to breathe again. That’s not to say that I celebrated its coming, but you come to a point where you realize that “living life” means more than simply being mostly conscious and breathing in and out for 24 hours a day.
Some of the conversations that I had with my father over the nearly two years between my mom’s death and his own death were among the most painful conversations that I have ever had to have. Other than my brother and family and a few close friends, I kept the facts about what was going on with my dad fairly close to the chest. He didn’t want to talk to many people and I wanted to maintain some amount of his dignity. He was not the man that he used to be and there was no need for everyone to see that.
Hardly a day goes by since April 17, 2013 that I don’t think of him. I still have voice messages on my phone from him, wishing me a happy anniversary. I still have recordings of him singing in church from so many years ago. I still have a bottle of his cologne next to my bathroom sink. Lifting that bottle to my nose and closing my eyes, I can easily drift off and my mind is filled with images of his smile and his words of wisdom, imparted to his son who has followed in his steps.
Time heals all wounds, at least that’s what the masses say. Not sure whether I fully believe that or not. I always compare the wound of grief to the wound that Frodo received with a Morgul blade in the Lord of the Rings books. Although the wound healed, he was never the same because of it. The damage had penetrated much deeper than just the skin, and the same can be said of grief.
A year from now, I will look back again and most likely be surprised that another year has passed. The memories will continue, but the ache may feel a little duller than before. Things are different today than they were a year ago, and I expect that a year from now, they will be more different still.
I miss my dad tremendously. I miss his laugh. I miss his smile. I miss his voice. I miss the conversations that I would have with him, even when he would give me advice that I never really asked for. I know that his time here was done and I know that he’s with my mom and his Savior now, it still doesn’t take away that ache that persists deep in my very being.
Today, I will celebrate the life of a man who gave all that he had to do what he didn’t completely understand by being a pastor. I will celebrate the truth that he has passed on to me. I will celebrate the love that he showed to me, my brother, my mom, and everyone with whom he came into contact. I will celebrate that the shell of a man who breathed his last breath one year ago today has been fully restored, glorified, better than he was before. No more pain. No more tears. No more dying.
I can’t wait to see you again, Dad. I love you so much more than I ever realized. Take care of Mom. Happy Easter. Enjoy it as you celebrate with the One who died and gave it all so that we might live.