Today my dad would have turned 80. He died four years ago on February 1, just a few days shy of his birthday.
It is hard to believe it has been four years since that day. My mom has adjusted, as much as possible. She is busy, active, energetic, continuing to pursue their life dream of mission efforts. But she doesn’t forget, of course.
How does it work that life goes on, the current carries us on? There is no choice, that’s how it works.
I think of him often, at odd moments here and there. Little things bring him to mind, and four years down the road, the sadness is mostly gone, and sweetness is in its place. The memories are good, and I smile when I’m reminded of some funny thing he said or did. Sometimes the tears still come, often when I least expect it, surprising me that emotion can bubble up, nearer the surface than I knew.
I’ve been thinking a lot about creating passion in my life. I should say, expanding passion. There are some things I am passionate about, primarily my family. I think about my dad, and how he displayed that quality in his life.
He wasn’t a flashy person, not the cool one in the crowd. But he was a man of faith, an old fashioned faith that wasn’t about fame or fortune. He was a minister, a preacher, a missionary. He had goals for sharing his faith, and he pursued them. He spent most of his life focused on sharing his faith with others, and lived many years in foreign countries to accomplish that goal. He and my mom were partners in life and in faith, and their mission was their passion.
The last couple of years of his life he was not able to travel, except to doctors’ appointments and to hospitals. His world grew smaller, at a time when mine was expanding. It was about that time that Rob and I moved to Alaska, and we traveled a lot. I always called when we traveled, checking in. I would hear his voice, “Where are you now?” A little wistful, it seemed to me. I’m sure he was thinking of past years when he was well and able to be about his life’s work. It pricked my heart to know that he would likely not make those journeys again.
This week I’m traveling again, in Anchorage for a training, and I heard a little voice in my head as I was packing. “Where are you now?” I’m right here, Daddy, thinking of you, and wishing I could sing happy birthday to you in person. But you’re where you belong, too. I know that because I also have a faith. It is a bit different from my dad’s. My faith has not prompted me to live abroad, or to choose a missionary life. But it is there, nonetheless.
Milestone birthdays are always special, celebrated with a little extra excitement. If my dad was here, we would do a big family gathering, make a special event of the day. But without him, of course that isn’t happening. Still, I like to think that he’s having his party. I like to think that he’s off on a journey, traveling like he loved to do. And because I haven’t been on that journey myself, I ask him, “Where are you now?”
Happy Birthday to my dad. Happy birthday, Daddy.