It’s been a little over four months since my Father died. I find myself often lost in mindful contemplation about times we shared with each other, usually accompanied by both a deep appreciation for the good times we had and a longing for just one more. Yesterday, in what turned out to be about a 13 hour plane ride (when you add all three legs together), I spent time looking at photographs of my Dad through the years: from the days of his early childhood all the way through to a trip we took together recently when he was well into his 80s.
In one, he is only about two years old with a crop of long, thick curly hair. He is sitting on the front stoop of his house with his mother, who is holding his sister –a newborn.
In another, he is a young, teen-age man. Tall and thin, wiry and athletic – he is standing with a golf club in his hand with six others: his high school golf team, which he helped form and for which he was the captain.
In a third photo, he is about a decade older. Once again, his wiry body and athleticism are evident; and once again he is standing with his buddies – this time wearing a baseball cap and holding his glove. He’s on an army base in Japan, standing with some of his buddies.
I will fast forward through the list – I don’t have the time to go through all of them, and you shouldn’t be asked to muster the patience you would need to endure this much longer.
In this last picture, he is aged. Still tall, now he’s bent over and looks frail. He is well into his 80s. He has a pen in hand, and is stooping over to sign something. What? It’s the descendants book at the Howland House in Plymouth, MA. He is a direct descendant of John Howland, who came over on the Mayflower. This was a trip he always talked about making – and I can’t tell you how happy and proud I was to have been there with him when he finally made it – late in life, and just a short while before his death.
My spirit rises with each recollection of these precious moments and memories. Oh, I don’t suggest that there is no grief that accompanies this rehearsal of my time with Dad. Of course there is – and with each photo these is a desire to see him back among the living: one more ballgame with him, one more round of golf, one more time seeing him hug my children and hearing him tell them he loves them.
Instead, I take delight in living vicariously through the memories. I observe with some delight that, although not all of our encounters through the years as parent and child were good ones – far from it -, all of the memories that come back to me are of the joy we made with each other. I like that.
In this journey through God’s mystical realm, people come and go. They touch us, and make the living of our days delightful. Their absence will sadden us, but that sadness is mitigated by the lingering, abiding presence of the good times we shared with them.
Spend some time in the coming days remembering loved ones past. Let the refreshing pleasure of those good times cascade over you and bring to you recollections of the joy they gave. Gentle listener, be not dismayed at their passing, but instead choose to rejoice and be grateful for the time you shared with them. And remember to remember, pausing along the way to call them to mind and take joy again in what made your time with them worth remembering. And may the peace that passes understanding rest with you on your journeys Into the Mystic.