This magnificent bird of prey flew over me and let out a cry. I looked up and wondered, Dad, are you gone? As I walked along the beach with the red rocks, I thought, not yet. Intuitively, I suspected it would be soon. The call came shortly after midnight East Coast time last Thursday. It did not really surprise me. Dad had slipped away in his sleep, with no one by his side. That was the kind of man he was. He did try to protect us from pain.
What I find interesting about this photo is that the right wing seems to have something wrong with it. It looks like it’s missing a part. I did not notice it while the bird flew over me, but the picture captured it vividly. Dad had had many surgeries on his hip. I do not know if this was a sign from above, but I do know that I was not shocked to learn that Dad was gone. I like to believe the Holy Spirit was definitely trying to let me know gently. Having said my goodbyes prior to leaving, I was pretty much at peace upon receiving the news. The full weight of it did arrive in the morning, when I tried to call my mother. I loved my dad very much. Nothing can really prepare you for such a monumental loss.
This psalm for Pentecost Sunday was 104, which is a reminder that when God sends forth the Holy Spirit we are created, then our breath is taken away, we die, and return to dust. In the Gospel of John, Jesus suddenly appears, despite the locked doors, and stands among his friends: Peace be with you. This is the great gift of Pentecost. Jesus desires peace for us.
My dad was a farm boy through and through. He might have left the land, but the land never left him. He was an avid gardener and a lover of pets. One of my very favourite memories of him is in the hospital when one of the therapy dogs stopped by. He could not move much but his hand slipped down and found the head of the dog to pat it, and to allow the dog to lick his hand. A big boyish smile came over his face. That is how I want to remember my father.
Dad was a good man who had worked hard all of his life, both in his family of origin and in the family that he grew. In his own family, he was one of eight siblings. Because he was among the older grouping, he worked outside the farm and on the farm, to help provide for the family in whatever ways he could. Watching him with his siblings was a great delight to me. I saw a side of Dad that helped me to understand why family was important to him and why roots were to be respected. He hardly talked about his youth, but when he did, I listened intently, hoping to learn more about a man who was humble and often silent about his past. I will never forget the time when I was out east visiting one of his brothers, who told me funny stories about Dad. When I returned home, Dad was angry; he had not liked being talked about in his absence. I do not think he was really angry but he was not particularly happy either. Dad probably did not want us to know how hard life was for him.
I pray that Dad is finally at rest. This was a man who had worked hard all of his life and now is his time to finally relax and be pain-free. May Dad see God face-to-face and may perpetual light shine upon him. Amen. Alleluia!
What memory do you have of a parent that brings you peace?
How important are your roots to you?
Peace-Bringer, let our hearts know your divine comfort as we mourn our losses in life. Send forth your Spirit and renew us. Amen.