Remembering Dad

In this article: Remembering Dad on Father’s Day.
It’s Father’s Day, and I woke up thinking about my dad.
You, too?
In my pondering, a memory flitted through my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday.
I was a Junior in High School, standing behind the huge stainless steel grill in the Tastee Hut restaurant. I’d been working there as my summer and after school job for years already, and my bosses were like another set of parents to me.
“How did your Dad’s doctor’s appointment go?”, the wife asked.
My eyes immediately filled with tears, and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t stop them.
“He has Parkinson’s Disease,” I finally choked out.
Her response was incredibly comforting. But, it was an unforgettable moment in my life.
It was in that instant that I began to get acquainted with grief. It was snapshot in time where I had to face the reality of change, loss, and uncertainty.
My rarely sick, big, strong Dad was changing before our eyes. Gone was the security of thinking that he’d “always be there for me.”
I’m grateful that we had him with us for 11 more years after that diagnosis.
He passed away when he was 64. I was 28. And, now, I’ve learned to accept the tears that come with life. The still come unexpectedly, but I no longer am embarrassed.
They’re part of this journey of life, and help me remember how precious the people were who I loved so much…
How grateful I am for my family and the legacy of faith my parents gave me.  If you have lost a loved one too, my heart goes out to you today. Big hugs from me to you.
Below is a story about my dad I originally wrote on October 20, 2010.
 I have a confession to make…My mind was wandering during this morning’s church service. It all started with the song “How Great Thou Art”…
“…When Christ shall come
with shouts of acclamation
and take me home –
what joy shall fill my heart.

 

Then I shall bow
in humble adoration
and there proclaim,
my God, How Great Thou Art!”
As I sing those words, I always think of Heaven…and picture my Heavenly Father…and my earthly one, too.

I have a mountain of memories of my Dad:

  • He came to the breakfast table every morning “singing” one line of “When it’s Springtime in the Rockies”. I say “singing” very loosely here, as Dad was completely tone deaf. I have no idea what the significance of that song was, but it was a cheery way to start the day – no matter what season it was in the Rockies!
  • Dad helped me to understand what “the fear of the Lord” meant. Although a calm and patient man by nature, when he started to chew the side of his tongue, I knew to shape up my behaviour!;)
  • Dad was a man of few- but wise – words. He had an amazing ability to summarize a complex situation in a neat, little phrase.
  • When Dad told a funny story, he’d laugh so hard he could hardly get the words out.
  • Every morning he’d turn on the local radio station to hear the “Farm Report”…but what he really got a kick out of was the words to those crazy country songs!

15 years ago this November, my Mom and Dad were planning a trip to visit us here in Canada. But, instead of a ride to the airport, my dad rode by ambulance to the nearest hospital. He had been battling a neurological disease for 11 years, and the diagnosis of “pneumonia” was life-threatening in his condition.

What followed was a series of phone calls back and forth with my siblings. “Should we come?” It was a hard decision. He had had close calls in the years previous, but had managed to make it through.

One evening we got the news that Dad’s condition seemed to be improving. We went to bed that night relieved and thinking he was heading towards recovery.

When our phone rang in the dead of night, I didn’t even need to answer it to know what it would be. The doctor had described my dad’s last breaths so graciously to my mom. He said, “Jim’s heart stopped beating. We’d get it started and it would stop again. It was if he had been to a better place and wanted to stay there.”

Ahh…Heaven!

I know there are no “Do-Overs” in life, but if there were, I would want to get to that hospital on time. I would tell my dad thank you. And , “I love you”. And I would kiss his weather-worn cheek.

I know in the big scheme of things the outcome wouldn’t be different if I had gotten there on time. But I wish I could have honored him in that way.

Family

I have some very vivid memories of the time I spent with my family before and after Dad’s funeral. But, by far the most precious one was when we all gathered together at the funeral hall for the “viewing”. We had all gone to the casket to say our good-byes and we sat down to a few silent, awkward moments. I’ll never forget what happened next. My brother started singing,

“When peace like a river…”

and one-by-one we all joined him…

“attendeth my way.

When sorrows like sea-billows roll.

Whatever my lot

Thou hast taught me to say.

It is well.

It is well with my soul.”

The greatest gift my dad ever gave me was my heritage of faith. My parents and grandparents all had a close relationship with Jesus -the Saviour of our souls. And because of their desire to teach us kids the Way of the Lord, we were able to sing that song during a time of deep sorrow. Oh…the hope of Heaven is indescribable!

Grief Changes You (Don’t fight it!)

As the years go by, I’ve discovered a fascinating phenomenon. As the anniversary of Dad’s death approaches, I think of him much more. It’s as if the grief is sort of “fresh” again. I didn’t understand at first what was going on. But a friend of mine explained that that is a normal part of the grieving process. “The body never forgets”, she said.

I’ve learned to accept this as a normal part of “me”…and to rejoice that I have so many great memories to hold on to.

So, as I sit in church and

  • sing about Heaven
  • or hear about my Heavenly Father
  • or watch Grandpas with their grandkids

I’ll probably tear up a little…or alot…

  • or if the worship leader decides to sing “It is Well With my Soul”…

I’ll cry buckets…buckets and buckets.

But, I’m fine- really. It’s just part of “me”. I joke with those sitting by me that I have 2 options:

  1. I’m going to cry, or
  2. I’m going to throw up on you.

They, without fail, choose the tears!:)

Here’s my dad at about age 18 on his Navy ship during the Korean War.

And here he is holding our oldest son. He was 2 when Dad passed away.

 I asked him recently if he remembered Grandpa Jim.

“Oh, yes”, he said.

“I don’t remember much. Just that he loved kids!” 🙂

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12 Comments

  1. Really glad your mind wandered this morning. It was really neat to read these memoirs of your dad. I love life stories. Very special, and very stirring! Glad I'm not the only one who tears up buckets at church. 😉
    <3 ~Keely

  2. i remember him a lot Rita, i remember one christmas he gave all us boys whips and i thought it was the greatist thing ever. and everyone should remember his chippy chompers. he is missed but we will all get to see him again.

  3. How great thou art was my moms favorite…we played it at her memorial service…and I heard it for the first time since then while shopping in a thrift store today…then I came here tonight and read this….chills…. And tears!!!
    Robin

  4. Loved this post 💜 So much you wrote resonates with my life. Lost my Dad, my mom has Alzheimer’s and my husband passed from cancer 6 months ago. I am slowing coming out of my fog and trying to lean more into God. Thank you for your words.

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