Death is a strange thing. One minute a person is here, the next they are gone. Their shoes are still beside the chair, their coat hangs on the hook, and their cologne remains in the air. Everything changes when a person dies. The color of the sky, the brightness of the sun, the song of the birds, all seem different. The last shovel of dirt is thrown into the hole, the last arrangement of flowers is carefully placed on the grave, and the folks walk back to their vehicles. Everyone drives away. The sun goes down and darkness drapes the earth.
While the person was alive they were able to bring things out in others that are now pushed back inside. They changed the dynamics of the circle by their presence. To paraphase a thought from C.S. Lewis: When A, B, and C are all together something happens that is different than if C is missing. A and B may still have rich conversation but C added to and brought out of both A and B something that is now lost. C made things different. C made both B and A better. When C is gone, A and B will never be quite the same. This is one of the ways that death stings.
On occasion A and B will bring C back into their conversation. They will remember a funny event, a smile will stretch across their faces, and they may brush back a tear. The memory is good but C is still gone. Under the sun, C will never add his voice again. He can't. He lives in another realm.
I was talking with a man a year ago. His dad had recently died. He was not close to his dad (in fact he had rarely seen him over the years). This man in his fifties said to me, "It dawns on me from time-to-time, I don't have a dad anymore." Here is a man with his own family, with children and grandchildren, who was never that close to his dad, and yet he was different because his dad was gone. The world is always different when someone dies.
I understand my friend's thoughts. I was close to my dad. I loved him very much. He loved my mom and his family very much. He talked about his family all of the time. I feel his absence every day. The evidence that he existed is all around. When I walk on the ground that he cleared, use the tools that he purchased, drive the vehicles that he drove; there is a heavy sense of his absence. I look in the mirror but I am only a mere reflection of him.
I have a wrinkled and greasy ten-dollar-bill in the drawer beside my bed. I found it beneath some old tires at my dad's shop. He labored long hours at that shop and I am sure that the bill fell from his pocket as he worked. The bill is a reminder to me of how hard he worked to provide for his family. He continued to work even when he was wrinkled, like that old bill. He knew that God provides food for the table by the sweat of the brow. He was willing to sweat, sacrifice, and spend himself so that others could be cared for.
My dad's theology was built around John 3:16. That was the verse that he quoted most of all. Though he read the Bible through several times, he always came back to John 3:16. God changed his life through that verse. All of the sacrifices made by my dad grew out of his understanding that God was willing to sacrifice his own Son in order to provide for his bride, his children.
I don't have a dad anymore. I have found that I cannot carry the burdens that he carried as well as he did. I often grow weary. One day my children will walk in these same steps. They will feel the absence of C. They will see the traces. My dad directed me to a Father that never leaves. That Father dries my tears and pulls me close. His ears are always open. When I am missing my dad, I call on my Father. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). It is my prayer that when I am gone that my children will remember to pray, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (Matthew 6:9).
Today would have been my dad's 76th birthday.