One year ago today I hugged Dad for the last time.
Of course, I didn’t know that. We so rarely recognize last times when they come. Which is good, I think. And while I wasn’t expecting that hug to be the last, Dad’s progressing Parkinson’s made me keenly aware that every hug might be the last. And so I always hugged him and told him I loved him with that in the back of my mind.
I should probably do that with everyone always.
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
November 21, 2019, was a good day. I was doing an event at the Upshur County Public Library in my hometown in West Virginia. Mom and Dad were there along with other friends and family. There were even some readers who didn’t know me and weren’t related to me! We were in the library Dad helped build (his name is on the plaque out front), the one that supplied me with so much reading material over my growing up years. My nine-year-old niece got her first library card in her OWN name that evening. Plus, we had cookies from Fish Hawk Acres.
And when it was all over, I took Dad to his assisted living facility and I hugged him tight not knowing that my next visit would be cancelled due to a pandemic. Not knowing that the loneliness, fear, and isolation would take my father’s life as much as Parkinson’s and a failing heart.
Sometimes it’s good to not know.
I started today with the thought that I’m getting further and further away from the last time I saw my father. The sort of thought that casts a pall over an otherwise pleasant weekend.
But another thought soon followed. I’m getting closer and closer to seeing him again. This isn’t a wish to die or for the world to end. Rather it’s a blessed awareness that we’re promised more than this world. And while the truly exciting part about getting to heaven is being in the undiluted presence of God, as a fleshly human being I can’t help but think of something I have more experience with–being with my dad.
Because I think the way Dad loved me–wholly, unabashedly, and even when I didn’t deserve it–is a foreshadowing of what it will be like to finally understand how God loves me. And to bask in that glow.
So today is the furthest I’ve been from my Dad–a full year away. And the closest I’ve been to reuniting with him. Which, I think, is the essence of what it is to live this life where joy and sorrow are inextricably bound.
Do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
I don’t believe that Dad is sitting on a cloud somewhere peering over the edge to see what I’m up to. He’s slipped out of the stream of time and into the presence of God. And while it may be silly, on mornings like these when I miss him so very much, I talk to God–who is with me and who is with Dad–and I ask him to tell Dad I love him.