This morning my father passed away.
My mind is a maze of thoughts and emotions … and why am I blogging right now? Because I just have to tell someone — even if I never publish this post and it is only read by its Catalyst — of the glory of God rising higher than this seeming defeat.
Probably longer than he should of been (and certainly well beyond the stage where it was cool), my Dad was one of my chief confidants. For this reason, many of the years blend together. When we spent time after dinner sitting in the living room talking through my current emotional hurdle …was it teenage angst or real middle school drama? When was the last time he knelt beside my bed to dream with me about all the things I could do or what the future held? I seem to think it was before I left for college, yet at the same time I so vividly remember stories he told by my bedside which only a young child could appreciate. Seventeen, when I crawled into his lap after getting cut from the cheerleading squad, felt a lot like when I was ten.
My dad was so safe for me.
And that same zest he had for life was what he encouraged in me. This man–who, on a whim, hiked the entire depth of the Grand Canyon with nothing but a can of diet coke–called out of me courage and adventure. The night before I left for a backpacking trip in Europe, I slept like a baby while my father’s excitement for me prevented him from catching a wink. And his part of the trip was only the drive to the airport. When I won awards for running at ages 11, 12, and 13 my dad talked to me about being a college athlete. This not because he aspired to boast of his child’s acclaim; my dad just constantly infused into me that there were no limits. I can still hear him saying (because he said it so often) You can do anything, Sara.
He loved my zeal … even if he didn’t always understand its object. One of the challenges in our relationship was when I began to actively pursue a relationship with Jesus. My dad grew up in the church, but had a period of time in college and beyond where he began to question whether Jesus was who said He was. Little vignettes come back to me of conversations we had over the years. Through it all he honored and respected my ever-growing faith.
He loved to dialogue about things he knew a lot about and things he knew nothing about. My dad would pass up some of his favorites–Jeopardy or a hand of cards–to sit at the table and deliberate. And on faith, we did. Over many years, we did.
The constant theme of my dad’s discourse was “I want more faith, but I just can’t get it”…however, something changed after his cancer diagnosis this past December. While I want to protect the privacy of some of my most cherished conversations, I will say this one thing. My dad was not too proud nor too convinced of his own theory, to, at age 62, recalibrate. I humbly watched as my father, truly my hero, took a figurative bow and asked Jesus to come into His life.
Whether he knew it our not, my dad launched me into my relationship with God. It wasn’t hard for me to get my arms around a Heavenly Father with love enough to endure death. My father here on earth had already made it seem true. At 15, when I asked Jesus into my life, it was only natural to sit before Him in the same safety which I had with my own dad.
And after all these years, I’ve arrived at a day where my father is living out the reality that our life here on this earth is really just a blip–and when all is stripped away, He is all we have.
When people die, we tend to memorialize them as if they somehow touched some sort of perfection on this side. Well, my dad didn’t come without flaws and (like many children I suspect) I regret that at times I carried a microscope to them. My hero was human. But I praise God that as the weeks and months leading up to this day have unfolded, what fills my mind is such a deep fondness for my father.
He was a great man.
And He was created by a great God.
So I’m finding myself wishing again that I could go back to Saturday mornings mixed with the smell of sweat and scrambled eggs as my dad and his best friend John chewed the cud after a tennis match. I want to crawl into bed and close my eyes while he tells me a story about a land far far away. Oh, if I could have one more sunset ride on a raft with my dad in the ocean …
And while his life and death could appear to be yet another strike against this little heart of mine (that will not cease to believe that God is the God of the supernatural, the miraculous), I see this as as a piece of the mystery that will be unfolded at the end of the age.
When I see my dad again.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.