The Word of God

Outliving My Father

boy hugging father playing outside

Today, I have outlived my father by one day. What happens tomorrow is all in God’s hands, to whom I have given thanks and praise, and to whom I have lifted my Dad’s soul to Jesus, all throughout this time leading up to this occasion especially with the awesome celebration of the Mass. This whole experience has been a kind of epiphany for me even as the eventual appearance of the numbers “60” on the birthday cake loom in the not-so-distant future.

My father, you could say, was a little attached to the past especially as he immersed himself among the memories of the care-less, free-spirited days of high school football, fast cars, beautiful women, including my mother, and a world just recently ravaged by the threat of the Nazi take-over of the planet, friends he knew that died in Korea, and the prospects of choosing to raise a family, live on his own, and finding a path which could pay for all of it. Unfortunately at times, for me, anyway, he had many friends and associates who helped him enjoy and justify the nostalgic hold on the ticking seconds of life just as his sons were growing older, his wife expanding her professional horizons, and his body gradually weakening although you could have never suspected it. Even at fifty plus years old, with a handsome touch of grey hair, hardly a hint of a belly, and any number of aching muscles clamoring for the quick and over-generous application of Absorbine, Jr., he could still outrun, out climb, and outperform all of the younger firemen at his station which he daily reminded all of them at the drop of a bright red helmet.The last time I saw him alive was in his garage office, a small brown desk that had survived two hurricanes and a couple of frantic moves from his childhood home, to the first house he ever shared with his wife, to the new home he thought they could never afford and finally to the last residence he would occupy. Things were good between us at that point, in fact, they were more than good. Each time we saw each other, even that last evening in the garage, he would hold me tight, mess up my hair a little, then quickly restore it, then insist that I take something for the trip home, be it a sandwich or fruit, or something he thought I might need for my car or kitchen. That last night together, as I was walking to my Chevy Blazer, he reached out to me and started to choke up over his words. “Don’t worry, Dad,” I remember saying to him, “I know you love me.”

Twenty-four years later I buried my Mom, and now I can say that another passage has been complete in my life and I am grateful. Grateful to them both,  I am ever-so-thankful to my Sweet Jesus who has never left my side no matter how dark it has been, or rather how dark it appeared to be. Therefore, I’d like to share with you what I have learned going forward. (1) The fear of death is more dreaded than death itself. Fear is the enemy and we cannot negotiate with it. I choose to live in freedom. The only failure is losing God and that’s not going to happen. (2) Because I choose to envision the sheer magnitude of my dreams and blessings, I can appreciate and accept the intensity of my life’s battles. As long as there is breath in my body, I will never give up. (3) Problems are messages. I realize now that until I fully receive and grasp the messages, they are poised to repeat themselves.
I know very well how valuable time is and how wonderful it is when it is spent doing good things and spending it with great people. Thank you, Daddy. I know you did all you could for all of us and truly believe that you are at peace now, hopefully close with Mom. I sure do miss you.
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To Free or Not to Free?

inside view old prison cell

When I was in college, I remember reading about an incident that apparently transpired between Frederick II, the king of Prussia in the 1700’s and a prisoner. This beloved monarch truly wished to be present to all in his kingdom, even to those who were incarcerated.  It was reported that when he went to a specific prison in Berlin, he went cell by cell greeting each of the occupants. Everyone who saw their king had the same reactionary speech, “Please, Your Highness, free me from this place for I am innocent and do not belong here!” You and I can only imagine how old this was getting, over and over again, the echo of entitlement filling the dark and musty hallways; that is, until the last prisoner. The king noticed a very neat and tidy cell at the end of his state visit. There, in the corner of this dingy enclosure, was a small, middle-aged man washing what appeared to be a few articles of clothing in a bucket. Of course King Frederick was intrigued.

“You, there!,” he bellowed.

“Yes, yes, Your Majesty,” answered the startled inmate.

“Why are you here?”

The prisoner looked down and said, “I am here because of robbery, Sire.”

“And are you guilty, man?!”

“Yes, Sire,” the prisoner continued, “I am guilty and deserve to be here” as his head humbly sank downward. To the surprise of all gathered there, King Frederick reportedly shouted, “Guards! Remove this prisoner and let him go free. It is certainly not right for this guilty wretch to corrupt all the innocent people in here!”

You and I are on this road of life and encounter all kinds of disappointments and discouragements. We even have to put up with those who do not appreciate us or understand how we struggle in life, sometimes in quiet desperation. None of us can really say that we are totally innocent and do not belong here, to the point that we are so self-righteous and judgmental of others around us, fellow travelers all. Life is too short to lose precious moments or opportunities to express the truth about ourselves even in the most unexpected of moments.  No one is suggesting to ignore bad and harmful behavior, especially when it is lashed out against one of us.  But, I do recommend healthy doses of self-awareness, self- knowledge and self-love, the good kind, every day. Whatever is true about you is never going to hurt you. Running away from it, certainly will. Everything is going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.

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