My Dad died this past weekend.
It was unexpected, or at least as unexpected as it could be from a man who was almost 89. I last saw him about a day and a half earlier and he was in great form, full of wit and smiles. But with one phone call from my brother at 5 AM Saturday morning, I found out that that visit with Dad had been my last.
Mom had died a little more than three years earlier, and since then — after an understandably rough first few months — Dad had done very well, making good friends and enjoying the wonderful staff at Kenny’s Pond Retirement Residence.
There were many lovely people there who made Dad’s life without Mom not only more tolerable but often truly enjoyable. Still, despite how much he loved it there, Dad always gave the impression that he had not so much moved in as was living at a bus stop. Kenny’s Pond is a beautiful place, but ultimately Dad was only there to watch and wait. He was eager for God to transport him back to the woman he loved.
And so I’ve gone through lots of memories these past few days, thinking of the things he’d said both when I was little and when I was not. I’ve also thought quite a bit about what I had said to him, and what I did not. Happily, the words “I love you” were passed back and forth with every visit, as were hugs and kisses on a forehead and clasped hands. Dad was a strong man who loved to hunt and fish and farm the way I love to learn and write and build Websites. He was a Godly man who started every day with his Bible and prayer, and ended it with the same. He taught others through Bible studies and by living. He was by any standard much more of a man than I, but he never missed a chance to tell me what a good man I am and what a devoted father I’ve been. Coming from him, those words breathed life into me. They made me want to be a better father and a better everything. They still do.
And so today my brothers and sisters and I start our vigils at the funeral home. I have not yet seen Dad in his casket, and I have to admit that for once… I don’t really want to see him. I’d like for my last memory of Dad to be him still very much alive, with his quiet smile and dry humor and understated wisdom. But see him I will. And eventually I will look back and cherish these times as well.
And on Wednesday, once we have lowered him into the ground, we will walk away fully knowing that we did not lower him at all. Dad has already been lifted to a much better place. We’re just dealing with his remnants and the memories of a life well lived, and a world a little wiser for his having been here.
Dad not only lived; he loved and loved well. He had standards, cherished wisdom and shared it daily. And he always made it clear that he expected me to do the same.
Thanks, Dad. You showed me well. Tell Mom I love her too.