Time and memories and four years later
When they say time flies I wonder what that would look like if time housed a physical frame, had substance. If time had the wings of an eagle would it's flight be slow, regal? Or should we picture it more like a hummingbird's wings that cannot seem to hold still long enough to even see its colors without slow-motion video? Amy Grant sings a song where she says, "Time is illusion, time is a curse." In some ways, I would agree for when it flies too fast for us and change whisks us into another of life's dimensions, it can feel like blessing as equally as it can feel like a curse. But however we look at it, time is not static. Its movement is constant and incessant and daily. And before we know it years have come and gone.
That's how I felt this week looking back to yesteryear. Thirty-three years ago this week, life was wonderful, exciting, new and maybe a little bit scary as I held my firstborn son in my arms for the very first time. How grateful we were for that day, a day we had long prayed for, and there we were, at last. Where did thirty-three years go? Really. Tell me how they slipped by when we weren't looking, because in my heart it was just the other day that I sat with a two-year old in Oshkosh overalls doing 100-piece puzzles and watching Sesame Street and later snuggling up with Dr. Seuss and "It's Not Easy Being a Bunny" and Bible stories at bedtime.
Fast forward three kids grown and nearly eight years ago to the excitement to our first overseas trip to Israel, which came on the heels of my first book contract for The Wives of King David series. That year, 2008, was a whirlwind for us. Kids made some life-changing decisions and my dad's health took a downward turn. That trip to Israel kept me filled with warm memories while I sat in a hospital room and watched my dad suffer in pain from a broken hip.
He was never the same after that. They said in time he would walk again. He didn't. He spent the rest of his life in a nursing home and we had a weekly McDonald's date where I brought him his favorite food and coffee (don't ever forget the coffee!) and watched his face light up to see me. I hated that place because I didn't want him to have to live there, but I would go back again if only to see his face once more.
Instead, today, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of his passing, my mom and I went to visit his grave. Cemeteries are good places to realize how fleeting time really is. To think his earthly body has been buried under that sod all this time, and yet, I know that's not where his soul resides. Those Bible stories we read to our children didn't start with us. They were a legacy passed on from watching how much the Bible changed my dad's life.
He came as we all must come to Jesus, with the faith of a little child, and he told me once that he "walked the sawdust trail" at a revival meeting when he was only four years old. Does the faith of a four-year-old matter? It mattered to my dad. He may have had his doubts, but if he did, he didn't share them. Instead, he spent every single day reading that Bible, cover to cover, year after year for as long as I can remember.
And I think it is that legacy and the memory of his quiet sense of humor that I miss most as I've been thinking about him this week. He went home to his heavenly Father two days after his son's birthday and the day before his grandson's birthday.
I've also been thinking that birth and death are more similar than we think. Before birth, we are cocooned in shadow, hidden in the secret place, until suddenly we are thrust into this world of noise and light and the jarring realization that we can't go back and live in such safety ever again. (I wonder if that's in part why babies cry at birth?)
As we get older and meet the world, we encounter good...and bad. We meet darkness and separation and suffer pain and we eventually realize that this world lacks a whole lot of things and needs more fixing that anyone has ever been able to offer. We feel rejection and disillusionment and experience hunger and thirst and don't we all know deep down where truth lives that there has to be something more? Something eternal?
In eighty-nine years on this planet, my dad lived through a lot of good and a lot of bad. But I can tell you one thing, when he knew his time was nearing its end, he wasn't afraid. He knew death was a lot like birth--he was going to be leaving all he knew (like that first sheltered cocoon) and be thrust (born, if you will) into a new world of glorious discovery.
There is song Phil Wickham sings called "Heaven Song", which two of my boys sang at my dad's funeral. Mom and I listened to it today on the way to the cemetery. It seems strange to picture my dad "running on greener pastures" or "dancing on higher hills" but I'll bet he would tell us that the purest water there is far better than McDonald's coffee!
And time has no wings there. In fact, I rather doubt Daddy has even noticed four years have come and gone. He would not care that the grass is growing over his headstone. If he has any unfulfilled desires at all, they would be to have his family with him there where pure love and joy and light never leave. But that's a subject for another time.
Time. There it always goes again. Flying off like a hummingbird rather than soaring slowly like a gull. Already the sun has set here and dinner beckons and another day is nearing its end. And tomorrow I will go on remembering all the wonderful memories this November week has brought our way. Until the final day comes and I won't look back wondering where it all went, but will look ahead to discover the things my dad has already found to be true.
He knew it all along because he read it every day in that Book. But now he knows it with more than just a soul-aching hunger that there must be more. Because there is more.
And he has seen it. And one day I will too.