It’s a sight I’ll never forget, my father standing over the open casket of my mother and his wife of 58 years. I snapped a picture of it (left), somewhat desperate to catch and preserve one last glimpse of my dad admiring his beloved.
They met on a warm Memorial Day weekend, riding together to church on a bus. That was 67 years-ago. There’s been a lot of wonderful life lived in-between, namely five children and 13 grandchildren and a tremendously active church life that involved friends from one end of the world to the other.
My mother passed into Glory just over 14 months ago. It feels like a long time ago, especially given all that’s gone on since that cold January day. My wife and I adopted our third son, I wrote another book and our house nearly burned-down in a wildfire. There are times when I just want to hear her voice, so I pull out my phone and listen to the last message she ever left me. It always makes me smile, especially since she ends by saying, “God bless you,” as only a mother can put it.
I had a dream about her and my dad the other night. They were laughing, about what I don’t know. I just know that when I woke up, I felt as though I wished I hadn’t done so, at least so soon.
The years of the “firsts” were difficult for my father, but he’s managed admirably. He’s done everything the experts suggest, from volunteering to traveling and pouring himself into other people.
But still, it’s hard. How can it not be?
My father and I have always been close. He was my hero growing up and remains my hero to this day. He has not crumbled as I feared he might. Infirmities of age have taken their toll on him, from dealing with macular degeneration to wicked arthritis to compromised hearing, he still soldiers on.
We talk every day, usually on the way home from the office. The conversation comes easy, but what I find hard is knowing there is nothing I can say or I can do to soften the sting of the loss he is dealing with on a daily basis.
They say guys like to fix things or make things right. We’re not usually so good at listening, but the last fourteen months have served to remind me that listening is precisely what we’re often called to do.
“I went for a walk the other evening,” he told me on Friday, “just as the sun was setting.” He paused. “I sure miss your mother.”
I knew those two sentences went together.
As we talked about it, I thought of all the walks they took together, my mom and dad, often at sunset, sometimes down at the beach they loved. Through all those years, they never ran out of things to talk about, my mother would say. But here, on this night, with so much still to say, my father didn’t have anyone to say it to as he walked alone at twilight.
I resisted the urge to give him a pep talk or remind him she was waiting for him in Heaven.
“I miss her too, Dad,” is all I could say. “I miss her too.”