Oh Glenys… this is the phone call you never wanted.
I hear the tremor in my brother’s voice. He’s 4000 long miles away, and I say a prayer in my head.
God, whatever this is, give me strength.
Dad is dying.
I can hear those three words like it was yesterday. My heart is beating fast and I kneel by my front window like I always do when I don’t know what else to do.
That was one year ago today.
My little grandsons are running around the house. There’s Christmas music playing. I’m setting the table with a cheery red cloth, preparing for a party. And then the next day, I’m on a plane, England bound, where I get to kiss my dad for the last time as he lies with his eyes closed and his hands folded in that quiet, quiet room, with a stuffed dog at his feet and an acorn tucked in his pocket.
Please, God, let me know you are real.
Let my dad be living in heaven.
Let my faith not be in vain.
Let my words, let my words that I write for children, be true.
Because sometimes, just sometimes, there’s this little nagging doubt that creeps up inside me and I wonder what life is all about, and if I really will get to see my dad again, like I told him with absolute certainty on my knees that day in front of my window.
I love you Dad, and I WILL see you again.
I could hear his breathing.
My voice was strong, and in that moment, I was convinced, just like Paul, that NOTHING, not even death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But today, I’m not strong. I’m not convinced. And I’m trying hard to hold on to my faith, my God, like I’m drowning in the ocean and it’s my only life-line, my only hope and it’s slipping fast through my fingers.
But what is faith? What is hope, the writer of Romans said, if it can be seen?
The day after I kissed my dad goodbye, as he lay in that simple wooden box, I stood in the street just a few doors down the road, while my sister and nieces played Christmas carols in the brass band. The icy wind blew my sister’s hair, and the rain in Wigan was cold. I wondered if my dad could hear them play his favorite carol, as he lay there, all alone.
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
I know my dad has been raised. I know my dad has gained that second birth. I just miss him terribly, and there’s this big, empty hole in my heart that no one can fill.
And so as my family gather in England today to celebrate and remember the life of the most Christ-like man I have ever known, the one I was utterly, utterly privileged to call Dad, I will take a walk in these Michigan wintry woods, and I’ll admire the splendid trees, all covered in soft snow, and I’ll listen for the birds he loved so much, and I’ll thank God that my dad, my wonderful dad, is in heaven.