Don’t Worry, Dad

reflection

You could tell by the engine noise that we were slowing down and would be landing shortly. The fields of Ireland, famous for their many shades of green, were now giving way to neatly formed housing estates, golf courses, streets and bridges. We glided over the rooftops and with a few bumps and swishes we were firmly on the ground.

Our boys were wide eyed as they took it all in. In the reception area the aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents waited with the joyful anticipation of seeing us again, and seeing their little descendants for the first time. Then, done with the hugs and handshakes and polite conversation, we went to the country farm where it all began a generation before.

The rooms looked smaller but of course hadn’t changed. The geraniums in the window were trying hard to bloom. The woodwork projects I had made in school and the fretwork pieces made at home when I was six were still proudly on display. The tags still attached reminded me of the many years my brother and I cleaned up at the local craft show.

The mornings were full of the aroma of bacon, eggs and home-baked bread. Then the boots were on and a walkabout revealed some things that needed doing.

“Those hedges all need trimming, Dad, and what about the lane?”

“Let’s sharpen up some tools and get to work before it starts to rain.”

We would make the trip every three or four years so our families could unite and relive the good times. For me, every trip seemed to turn into a working holiday, either at home renovating or fixing things on the farm or cleaning up at the wee “kirk” down the road.

Arriving and spending time there was truly special. The sadness came when we had to leave. In the early years when my parents were healthy it was just the pain of parting; but in later years when they were older, when Parkinson’s had robbed my father of an enjoyable life, the fear was always that I wouldn’t see him again.

After one trip it was time to say goodbye and head for the airport. We had packed the car and were ready to leave but only mom had come out to say goodbye. I went looking for dad and he had made it just halfway across the floor. His strong gait of years ago was now a soft shuffle.

After a hug I helped him back to his chair, and after a few words of comfort I said: “Don’t worry, Dad … I’ll see you again.” And through the blur I stumbled for the door. It was a quiet ride back to the airport as I mulled over the possibility of not seeing him again. Should I not turn around and spend another few days with him?

We returned to Vancouver and settled back into the usual work routines, but a few weeks later came the dreaded call from my sister. “Daddy’s dead,” she said with a choked up voice, fatigued by a tremendous effort to restore his life. After 83 years his heart stopped beating as he was preparing for bed.

We arrived again two days later and said our last goodbyes beside an open coffin. Was this the end? How could I now hold him and say: “Thanks for teaching me about the good life, Dad, and showing me how to love without words, and reach out to someone needing help.” How I’d love to have that chance again but now it was too late.

After the service in the home we carried him past the outbuildings he and mom had built with their own hands, then down the lane past the fields he had worked to provide for his family. Judging by the large crowd of people, this small, gentle man had earned the respect of all who knew him.

The church was packed to overflowing as we sang and prayed and heard the minister eulogize his close friend.

Interment followed in the adjoining churchyard between his parents’ plot and his good friend’s. Yes, his good friend booked the adjacent double plot so they could be close at the end.

I have read through the Bible many times but it wasn’t until some years later that I discovered some comments in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. On reading it over I remembered my parting comment, “I’ll see you again” and how it meshed with Paul’s own words. I realized then that I would see dad again.

This man, a ruling elder, small in stature but a giant when it came to helping others; this tireless worker for the kingdom of God was now on his way to his new heavenly home, to be clothed in a new heavenly body, free of pain and suffering. 2 Corinthians 5:1 explains this in detail and is a great comfort to me and many in this situation.

“When my earthly tent is folded and my matter goes back to the earth, I, yes I will go to my heavenly home and be clothed in a new heavenly body.” Wow!

Thank you, Jesus. I’ll see you again, Dad

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About Ross McLelland

Ross McLelland is an elder at St. Columba, Vancouver.