My journal today was originally written as a response to the hatred, in the violence, recently experienced in the Orlando Club Massacre. When I realized my post fell on Father’s Day; since I had already goofed up my Mother’s Day post, blogging about driving expensive sports cars in Las Vegas, I needed to focus on Father’s Day! Not only am I a father, but I know a bunch of ’em. Some are better than others, but we all have the privilege of profoundly impacting the lives of their children. What an AMAZING thing this is!
On a very personal note, I have had three Fathers. All of whom are deceased. Because of them, my life is rich with great memories. I deeply miss them all! With each one, I shared a special relationship. With each there was a bond of trust and loyalty. With my biological father, the bond was forged before I knew it; always there and never broken, despite separation, divorce, alcoholism and mental illness. I remember once, when I was eleven, calling him from a pay phone in Canada, at a park ranger station, after having almost drowned in a waterfall. I wanted to come home from camp so badly, yet he encouraged me to tough it out. It’s only another forty five days. You’ll be glad you stayed. And he was right.
The bond of loyalty with my two step fathers was forged in time. With John, my first stepfather, just when our relationship was at its best, he died unexpectedly. He was in his thirties, and I was fourteen, just returning from summer camp in Canada, after winning all the awards he had encouraged me to compete for.
In honor to all the fathers who cannot be with us, I wanted to share part of that story. Partly because he helped define me, and also as a cautionary tale, because, in my grief, instead of turning to God, I turned away. This was the begining of a long journey to restore my faith and trust in God. Something I never should have doubted.
“To say I was stunned to discover that my thirty-eight year old superhero had suffered a major coronary and was in a coma, would be an understatement. This had to be some weird dream that I kept trying to awaken from. I was in shock.
My grandmother took me to her house and told me which room I would be staying in. She asked me if I wanted something to eat.
Can we go to the hospital? I asked.
Not just yet. I can take you later. You should wash up and have something to eat.
I had lost my appetite, so went upstairs to take a shower. As the warm water poured over me I cried out to God in anguish, please God, don’t let him die! I’ll do anything. Take me instead of him! We are all so happy, everything is so perfect. Please, please, please let him be ok. God please let him live!
When I saw him at the Intensive Care Unit, he was on a respirator along with the usual web of tubes and wires for comatose patients. That was the last time I saw him, barely alive, supposedly brain dead, perhaps already beyond this world. His discolored form lay on that hospital bed, pretending to breathe with the help of a machine.
After he passed my mother returned home, weary and broken down. She was thirty six. We finally had time to talk, amidst the planning and the calls. He knew about it you know, all your awards at camp, he knew what you did, she said.
How? I asked, mixed with skepticism and grief, still in utter shock.
I told him. I kneeled down and whispered in his ear and told him how well you did. She reached out and pulled me close. When I told him, he cried. He knew Ricky, he heard me. And as she hugged me, we sobbed together, sharing each other’s pain and grief. I cried because I was grateful, because I was sad, and because I knew this man that had made everyone in my life so happy, if only for a brief chapter, was gone and he wasn’t coming back.
My sadness was shared by many on the day he was buried, at the Pioneer Cemetery. He had been a descendent of the first settlers and his final resting place was the historic Fuller family grave yard, at the end of a road in the middle of Hinsdale. An hour earlier at Grace Episcopal, our old Tudor style Anglican Church, for the first time ever I saw my stoic German grandfather cry like a baby. John’s body, in its casket, was ceremoniously born down the magenta runner, out of the big carved doors, towards its final rest, as we sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic:” My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of The Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword: His truth is marching on:
Glory, glory hallelujah …..
The cradle of mourners at the wake eventually thinned out, later that day and over the weeks and months. My grief was my own, not understanding how to reconcile the sadness and devastation, that had suddenly broken my world. Nothing that had come before had prepared me for this. If anything, I had felt set up, to be torn down. God was there for me, but in my grief I held Him responsible.”
Looking back now, I finally realized that God was always faithful and present. It was in the struggles of life, in its hardships, that we are offered opportunities to grow spiritually. Having a Heavenly Father that can be trusted is a gift beyond measure, but it is one that must be received. It is the most valuable relationship we will ever have, and it is one that must be pursued if it is to become what it is meant to be, in all its power and blessing.
May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. -Psalm 115:14-15
Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 24; Psalms 114–115; Isaiah 51; Revelation 21
May your Father’s Day be filled with grace, and gratitude for your earthly father and awe and reverence for your Father in Heaven. Amen.