A Boy & His Father
Lately I’ve had reason to reflect on my relationship with my dad. I’ve said it in other places: My dad was my best friend, my chief confidant. Our relationship wasn’t always described this way. Yet, I had the blessing of the relationship with my father becoming a relationship with my best friend, chief confidant, and forever mentor. I know how incredibly blessed and privileged that is. Not all sons, regardless of being adopted or not, have the type of relationship with their father which I had with mine.
The preacher for my parents’ funeral told a story about how my dad provided leadership for my home congregation. I knew the other side of the story; dad had spoken to me about the situation that evening before the meeting about which the pastor told his story. It was strange to hear someone else recount a conversation which my father and I had. Dad hadn’t told the pastor about the conversation he and I had had at the time. To hear the conversation my father and I had had over 30 years prior when I was in Connecticut at his funeral taught me something powerful and important. My father hadn’t just shaped and formed me into being a good pastor, he’d help shape others as they answered their call to ministry. My father, the lay man, taught me and many others how to be good pastoral leaders. A part of my grieving journey is to recognize how my father mentored me and other, even in being a pastor. It was one of the ways in which he was gifted.
I miss my dad. His birthday is coming up in just a few weeks. It’s hard not to think of him on beautiful Spring days. Days like today he was his happiest. We’d be working the soil and he’d be planting. I never got to plant any crops; that was all dads. My grandfather was the same way. The first time my father planted a crop was the Spring my grandfather died. I can’t help thinking of dad and the joy he’d have this time of year. That was part of how my father mentored me: During our hardest times of work was when there was the most joy. I try to follow that same example today.
Part of grieving, for me, has been like going through boxes you find in the attic. Some of what you find you recall; other things flash back forgotten memories. I’ve sorted through the box marked “dad” in my hearts’ attic, again. I’ve grown ever more grateful for the man who raised me, taught me faith, and showed me how to love unconditionally. This is a normal part of grief, too. We go through the memories, the “boxes in the attic.” We sort. We save. We eliminate. We retain. And every time we go through that process, we continue to add meaning and insight to the memories. Sorting through my “dad box” is where grief, gratitude, and understanding all began to come together for me. Grief was more than emotion. Grief was more than giving meaning to memories. Emotion and assigned meaning gave way to understanding and insight.
My grieving journey has led to understanding and insight into the person and personhood of my father. More importantly, it has led to understanding and insight into my own person and personhood. Thanks, Dad.