Summer Reflection: Farewell to Dad
On Mother’s Day in Mexico, I received the news that my father, Alex, died unexpectedly in his sleep.
I will never forget the shock and the sudden sting that penetrated right into my gut. The difficulty of catching my breath. My niece, on the other side of the phone, waiting patiently for me as I cried.
For the weeks that followed, I was struck by a roller coaster of emotions and sleepless nights. I was surprised at my mind’s ability to recollect memories, joyful and painful, some of which I had never thought about for decades. I struggled with hurt I thought I was long over with. The fact that I will never see my Dad again on this side of eternity. I was lost in so many thoughts.
But it was in the dentist chair (of all places), that I sensed a heavenly calm as I looked out the window and saw the morning’s rays peering through the leaves of the courtyard’s tree. It was so serene and beautiful that the scripture below came to mind:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -- Philippians 4:8
The apostle Paul exhorted the church of Philippi to discipline its thought-behavior. Like any exercise, I find that this takes time, repetition and perseverance. Since that morning at the dentist, I’ve been "exercising my heart," reflecting on what was excellent and praiseworthy about my relationship with my Dad– and I’ve been able to discover truth, understanding and forgiveness even in the painful memories. But more so, by focusing on the worthy, I've learned that my thoughts are always led to the goodness of Christ.
Paul goes on to explain in verse 9 that as we apply his teachings in our lives, the God of peace will be with us. Mourning my Dad’s death revealed this truth to me clearly.
So, Dad, I say goodbye to you:
With peace, seeing how the Lord showed you his great mercy and love during your last months of life.
With gratitude, remembering that day you helped me pick out my first Bible and how you’d encouraged me to seek the truth by studying it.
How on one morning, you spontaneously walked me to school before rushing off to work: I had been crying in protest about the big-looped-braided ponytails I didn’t want my classmates to see me with. When we got to the crosswalk just before the school, and with mom nowhere in sight, you graciously took my ponytails down.
And, I'll always remember the night you took me to the carnival, just the two of us, because the kids in school had teased me for never having been to one.
With a smile, remembering your love for crossword puzzles and how you tortured all of your six children with your constant playing of Neil Diamond and Vikki Carr albums.
Finally, I say goodbye with love to you, my teacher. Thank you for your life lessons: To seek Jesus. To look out and care for our neighbors in meaningful and practical ways. To know that our journey in this imperfect world comes with blows and it's getting back up that counts -- no matter how long it takes.
For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Praise be to God. Aloha ‘Oe Dad.
“But when you take the blues and make a song, you sing them out again.” – Neil Diamond
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