remembering papa

Monday, February 11, 2008

Twelve years ago today (or maybe it was yesterday?), my father said good-bye to the cancer and went on Home. We were all there, his family and closest friends, and he waited until my big brother made it there and mom told him it was okay to go. And he went.

And sometimes I just envy him, because he gets to be with Jesus, and he doesn't have to worry about fighting sin anymore, and he doesn't feel any pain any more, and he is doing what every one of us is created to do.

And sometimes I miss him. He was a teacher, and had a lot of wisdom to share, as well as a lot of random facts about anything and everything that made him sound smarter than he probably really was. How would I know? It took me a few years to remember that he wasn't perfect. He loved me and called me JR Jennifer and believed that I could be the President if I really wanted to.

I often wonder what I would be like had he been around for the past decade+ of my life. How would I be different? How would I be the same? Would I have made different choices? Would I be where I am or some other place entirely? I wonder about the impact on my spiritual growth and learning—having him around as I grew to be more serious about a relationship with God and what that means in my everyday life. I wonder what kind of input I have missed with him gone.

One of the last dates I had with him was out to some podunk town an hour or so away from Utica. I don't even remember which town. But we went to a coffee shop there to hear a favorite musician of his—Ed Gerhard, an amazing guitarist. It was a side of my dad I hadn't known before. A more relaxed version of the man who was very strict (though loving) and rather rigid in many ways as us kids were growing up. I think as he grew older, he let go of some of the rules he had laid on us as kids and started learning more about how to live a life that honors God without always keeping a checklist of "what not to do" handy.

I know that as the only girl, I have a different view of my dad than my brothers probably do. I think he related very differently with all three of us. I just wish there had been more time to figure out the relationship and to get to know my dad as an adult. For the last 11 months of his life, I moved home and spent time with him.

On Friday nights, we would walk up to the uptown bar & grill for the best fish fry in town, then rent a movie and head home. I don't remember most of the movies we watched, or many of the other places we tried the fish fry, or even really how many weeks we did this. I remember a night at Red Lobster where I tried his lobster and failed to see how it was any different from drowning pretty much ANYTHING in butter. Why pay so much when it was all about the butter?? I probably ordered chicken. Maybe steak.

I remember the night that he started telling me about a job interview he had conducted that day at work. He talked in a lot of detail about this interview, and I listened politely. My dad liked to talk. I would often rather have been reading a book. I finally, out of politeness, asked what position he was interviewing the person for. "Mine" he said. And I started crying. Realizing that he was wrapping things up. Getting ready to leave. Leave his job and leave this world. He talked about the "happenings" of the 60's that night, and I so wish I had gone straight to my room and written down that conversation that night so I wouldn't forget it.

The day we put his body in the ground was much like today: icy cold, with a clear blue sky and snow on the ground. A day he would have enjoyed immensely. He liked the cold. Wilted in the heat.

I'm not mourning today. I'm happy. Even when I am missing him, I know that I will one day see Papa again. I do not mourn as those who have no hope, but look forward to the happiest reunion of all.

There is much I don't know about heaven…like will we really ask God all those questions we've always wanted to ask Him? Will we really be chatting with the people we've read about in the Bible? Or will we just be at Jesus' feet, singing "holy, holy, holy" and being completely overwhelmed by His presence?

I guess today is really my papa's 12th birth day. The day he started his real life. Moved out of the shadowlands and into reality.


Victoria said...

Very sweet. I lost my father a little over a year ago. Knowing I'll see him again makes it easier. Thanks for this glimpse into your life!

JulieMom said...

I share your feelings too. I am sure my Mother has been introduced to him by now. I can't wait to get there, either. :0)

RachelBond said...

That is a really awesome & precious thing that you know, no doubts, that your dad is in heaven & you'll get to see him again.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful to hear the joy that comes after the initial grief of losing someone. joy comes in the morning. Can't wait to meet your Dad in Heaven - and yes! we'll be talking and enjoying one another as much as we enjoy Jesus and all the good things that are there. Beautiful to continue to love and look forward to eternal relationship.
Andrea Pitcher

Janice said...

Your way of poetry even in a paragraph of a post always inspires me.

I have yet to lose a very close family member, and can only hope I learn from you and others ways to avert as much regret as possible. I will try to write things down that may not seem important today, but later may be priceless.

Have a blessed day!

M. said...

Thank you, Jen, for sharing this...I, too, have someone in heaven I'm longing to see.

Experience has shown that the older I get, the faster time seems to go...It won't be long and we'll be there, too. :)

crisco said...

This year, I didn’t remember this day until Julie mentioned to me she had a friend whose mother had passed away a few years ago and she was still very upset about it. I don’t feel bad about not remembering. I think we’re fortunate to be able to see this day as one for celebration, not mourning.
I remember leaving Virginia that Friday night, getting home at six in the morning, and Papa’s last breath 37 minutes later. Just as vividly, I remember driving back a few days later and, somewhere in the mountains of Pennsylvania, seeing a beautiful sunset and wondering if Papa had arranged that for me.
Like you, I didn’t get much of a chance to get to know him as an adult. I don’t like lobster, but I wish I’d had the chance to share some with you guys. What I did learn in the few months I was able to be home was that my vision of him as a 17-year-old was mostly my fault. He was a lot more than just the discipline I saw growing up. Keith Green was another of his favorite singers.
I find myself more and more like him as I grow older. Who knew I would end up enjoying flying stunt kites? And much to Julie’s consternation, all those projects I leave 95% done, never seeming to get around to the finishing details.
I have very few memories of life growing up. Thank you for reminding me of some of the good ones.