Today is a death anniversary. My friends tell me it’s a special day when I should cherish memories and be thankful. They aren’t wrong, but those memories are currently seeping from the corners of my eyes.
I remember getting a call in Kenya telling me I needed to fly home. I remember the headlights illuminating the road in front of my rental car as I drove the dark roads in Missouri to reach the hospital, praying I’d get there in time. I remember witnessing his strong faith and his moments of fear. I remember days of feeding him ice shavings and being with family, huddling around his hospital bed and holding his hand when he stopped breathing. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe either.
Nothing prepares you for losing your dad.
When I was growing up, we lived in a small white house across a green lawn from the country church where he worked as a Presbyterian minister. I used to sit on the floor next to his desk as he wrote his sermons, cutting out collages from his paper recycling. I remember the feeling of being held in his arms as a young child while he stood at the back of the church at the end of a Sunday service, saying goodbye to parishioners. I remember the smell of the ink from the mimeograph machine in the church cry room. I clearly recall him yelling at me and my friend Cathleen when we ran across the threshold he had just finished painting oblivious that we had covered it in our small footprints.
How does a year become a decade become a lifetime? Did he know his life was passing?
On days like today I try to focus on what he taught me: To work hard. To grow vegetables. To not chew with my mouth open. To hammer a nail and speak up for what’s important. To stay silent otherwise. To focus on living in service of others.
Thank you, Dad, for your service, your lessons, and your humanity. And for helping me find a way forward when the path isn’t clear.