He made a puppet theater for my plays and called me “Annie.” He collected the funny and sad stories of his missionary parents and siblings and wrote them down so the rest of us would know them too. Our own milestones and poignant moments were chronicled in his “writings” so we would remember how we got to today. His love of ink words on paper inspired me to write stories of my own. My earliest props and stages were built by him. Dollhouses, doll cradles, tree houses, sandbox, shelves, countless wooden toys and boxes for my art supplies, and of course the Victorian style puppet theater, all reflected his skill with wood that at least equaled his way with words. He was my first producer. I call him, “Dad.”
In my early years, I thought he and I had forever. It turns out that we don’t.
I did not ask myself these questions until recently.
How many visits would I have with him before he died? Will I get to have one more?
If you are young and eager to get away from your parents and move across the country, you need to think about these things so you can have purpose in your remaining visits.
When I was in my 20’s, I was not as much focused on leaving my beloved parents, as I was enthusiastic about getting married. However, I did not calculate the remaining visits I would have with them until this year. I’ve been married 32 years, and I have seen my parents at least once a year since I left my Illinois home and moved to Texas. Some years I saw them more than once. Perhaps a total of 36 visits. If someone had told me, “you will only have 36 more visits,” I would have been stunned. 36 visits seem like nothing when you want to learn all you can from the ones who gave you life.
My grief and sadness over the days of loss that are ahead of me is tempered only by the knowledge that my father and mother have consistently praised God together in these later years. Their routine is to sing every night a hymn or chorus after supper—just the two of them. When we visit, we join in. Their aging voices praising God are more beautiful to my ears than any talented vocalist. Singing did not always come easily for my dad. He struggled many years with depression.
Psalm 117 reflects a good summary of the essence of their praise.
O Praise the Lord, all you nations! Praise Him, all you people!
For His mercy and loving-kindness are great toward us, and the truth and faithfulness of the Lord endure forever. Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah)
This month I hope to see my father again. He is declining rapidly. I superstitiously believe if I don’t go –goodbye will never happen. But it will.
It turns out that forever only comes in shades of God and not of man.
God, it’s hard to think about saying goodbye, but I praise you for what I have had and turn my longing for more over to you. Fill the void as only You can. Someday bring me to the place where he is going. How wonderful it will be to hear his words again, my writing muse describing the indescribable. Give him peace in what is left. Help him trust until the end. Amen.