Wednesday, October 31, 2007
You have strange thoughts when your father passes away. At least, I've had them.
My dad would have loved his memorial service. The church was nearly full of relatives and friends, and kind and funny memories where shared from the aisles before the service and from the microphone later. We sang his favorite hymns and the pastor shared a message with an altar call, even. At the end, a recording was played of my dad singing The Holy City thirty years ago, and well, if you hadn't cried before, you cried then, I'm certain. A dinner came afterward and we ate and talked with people we'd not seen in twenty years.
The service was recorded, filmed, and I kept wishing we could show my dad the film later. ("See, Dad? Wasn't that part funny? And wasn't it sweet what ____ said about you?") Tom, my mom and I talked the next morning and smiled while wondering if perhaps in Heaven you're shown the movie of your memorial service. Hey, you never know.
But even more, my dad would have loved the gatherings of us all for days in his home, the home he and my mom built themselves, the house with 200 clocks on walls and shelves. They'd only recently just completed remodeling their kitchen and I could still hear their happy chatter about it over the phone--they always sounded happiest in the middle of a building project, be it cabinets, floors or clocks. Yet he loved having company even more than he loved wood-working projects and there we all were, gathered around for hours at the table and in the living room. Laughing. Reminiscing about adventures great and small. Relaxing.
In fact, during our reminiscing stories in chairs throughout the house, I glanced around just in case I could see my dad sitting with us, too. He'd been so looking forward to visiting with us kids. My mind could barely fathom his not sitting in his recliner in the middle of us and now all the uncles, aunts and friends, also. In fact, not once have I thought of my dad as being 'dead' as I've thought of others that way. No, my mind only allows me to think of him as having relocated. To Heaven. (Very strange, but very real, that whole thing.)
Not until yesterday on the long, long flight home did I get a bit of healing closure on this. See, one quiet morning my mom and I sat at the table drinking some really great decaf coffee and I asked her what kind it was. She told me and then mentioned my dad had said to her, "While the kids are here next week, let's have some really good flavored coffee for them."
Oh my. I'd think about those words and cry every time. And there on the plane I told myself, "No! Don't let yourself think about that or you'll cry all your make-up off, you'll worry your fellow travelers and you'll look like a red-eyed, red-nosed zombie by the time you walk through the Buffalo airport."
And suddenly I remembered something... It was all the stories I've ever heard of people who visited Heaven just a tiny while, but were sent back because it wasn't their time to stay. Not once could I remember anyone wanting to come back here to Earth. And it was as though God told me right there on the plane that, quite frankly, my dad didn't want to come back to us. Even if he could return in a body all healed-up--even then--he'd choose to stay in Heaven.
And I knew that to be the truth. And although there's a tiny bit of hurt in that thought, there's a whole lot more comfort in it. My dad is having an amazing time in Heaven--he's visiting with Jesus. With family. He's visiting with all the people whose funerals he conducted... with all the people from the churches he pastored who arrived there before him... and he's experiencing the wonders only dwellers of Heaven know.
... and he wouldn't want to come back here and live, even if he could.
Amazing, amazing thought.