My friend from Germany had sent an email earlier this week, telling me that she would hold my family in her heart on Thursday which in the city in which she would be that day would be celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi. That made my heart sing. Today here in Canada we have caught up as it is the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. My dad’s memorial service and Father’s Day were both also marked by these holy days.
Years ago, the then-pastor of my parish would preach a homily at some weddings that touched me. I always thought that my father’s life fit into the concept that the priest was explaining. He suggested that if a couple thought about marriage as the Eucharist the newlyweds would generously offer their body to be broken for one another. He gave concrete ways of doing this. I think my father’s body was a walking testimony to how he offered himself for his family. Dad had so many medical issues and most I suspect were rooted in the hard work that he had done from a very young age to support his family of origin, and then to support us. I often said that Dad was like a cat with nine lives who had used up eleven of them. I think of that broken body now and am grateful for all that Dad gave to us, for each moment he sacrificed for the greater good of his loved ones, and for his determination to create for us a good life. Dad is free of that body now.
When I did my Ignatian pilgrimage last year, I did a lengthy graced history. At one point, I began to write Dad a goodbye letter. I would like to share that unfinished work here:
You have been an awesome father I know I am a daddy’s girl ~ I have always felt loved by you.
When I think of all that you have had to endure in life, I admire your courage and strength. You have lost so many loved ones in life from an early age that it breaks my heart to add one more to your list. Death is not our final destination and I do not fear it. I am excited to see Jesus face-to-face and know that he will be pleased to usher you into the Kingdom too.
You have been a good and faithful servant. Your body is a living example of the Love you have given. From early on in life, you worked hard and had great adventures. Working on the farm, and in mines, in the lumber forests, and at Swifts, your body endured harsh conditions. You slowly exhibited ill health in your older years because of these jobs. Arthritis and Parkinson’s Disease, in particular, took advantage of your body. I am grateful for all your hard work, Dad, both for your own family and then ours.
You always were there for us, Dad. Cold wintry nights with a flat tire or car trouble – you would come. If I needed a ride to the airport, you’d be there. You were not big on words of affection but your actions showed how much you loved us/me.
You’ve taught me how to do my end of days well – with courage, strength and grace – because of all your surgeries and sicknesses. I remember after you received the news about your congestive heart failure (which apparently turned out to be COPD instead) – you were in the kitchen and you could not catch your breath. How frightening that must have been for you! I took Mom out to the store to give you a bit of peace and when we returned you were calm. You had accepted this latest medical issue.
We are both criers, you and I. I have learned more and more to accept my tears as a gift. I’ve always marveled at how as a man you have let your tears flow freely. Your soft heart is a gift. It balances the part of you that can explode.
You taught me how important it was to be a gracious host and to welcome family in particular. You always rallied health-wise where family is concerned. If someone was coming in for a visit, you would get a second wind and seem to improve. I loved that about you.
That was as far as I got, thinking I had plenty of time to finish it. I was not able to thank him for the skating rinks he made in the back yard, the sled rides to the candy store down the street, for taking a carload of us piled into the station wagon to the drive-in, for ensuring we had fresh garden produce and flowers, for family BBQs, the numerous times he checked the oil in my car, for providing a summer haven at the campground for us, for driving halfway across the country in a pickup truck and a trailer every summer which instilled in us/me a great love for travel and seeing the world, for taking time to sit on the steps and watch that world go by when you could no longer get out, for a great sense of humour, for music, and for so many every day gifts that are gone from my sight but not my heart. You blessed us, Papa. I am very grateful for that.
Tonight I will stand in front of my congregation and read these words from the First Reading of Deuteronomy: Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you….and I will think of Dad. I will honor the long way that he too has led me throughout my life. I am at peace, knowing that Dad has eaten the Body and tasted the Blood of Christ. Dad, having done so, is promised in today’s Gospel that he will have eternal life and be risen up on the last day. He spent his life, breaking his body for others. He can simply rest now that his Home is with God.
Have you broken your body for others?
What memories do you have of your father this day?
Papa-God, thank you for the gift of my papa. May you share a cold beer today and walk in the heavenly garden. Let perpertual Light shine upon him, dear God. Amen.