Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last Day on Earth

Last Day on Earth

It’s hard to believe eight years has passed since my dad died. I usually experience a sense of dread approaching this anniversary. Having 14-16 inches of snow on the ground has subdued some of the feelings I typically have on this day. Snow has a way of mellowing everything out and bringing calm and quiet to an otherwise noisy world. That is a gift!

I can’t help but reflect on the events of his last day on earth. He had called me at 7:15 in the morning. Although he often called early, this was an exceptionally early phone call; enough so that I asked him why he was calling at that hour. His response, “I called you before you could call me!”

We had talked every day since the tragedy of 9-11, and talked to each other often before that, but on October 29th, 2001, I was preparing for my son to return the next day from a 2-year mission in Chile. I was busily getting the house and yard ready for his homecoming and dad knew I was excited about this reunion. He wanted to call before I was off and running.

Among other topics of conversation, he talked of special reunions in his life. Once when he was in WWII and had been injured by shrapnel, his brother Fred who was also stationed in Japan, came to see him in the Army hospital. It was a sweet reunion for this 19 year-old boy to have his older brother close by – Fred comforted him and abated his fears and pain.

Another reunion he spoke of was when he returned home after the war when his mother and siblings picked him up in Pueblo, Colorado. It was exquisite to have the horrors of battle behind him and to once again be in the arms and presence of his sweet family.

The third reunion he spoke of was the “Grand Reunion” he would have in the future with his loved ones who had passed on. At that point, there were more immediate family members on the other side than there were living relatives and he looked forward to that time when he could be with his parents and siblings who had gone on. Did he know this was his last day on earth? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I told him “not to rush it!!”

We said our goodbyes and I had the sense that I wanted to linger in the conversation longer – like when you give someone a hug, say goodbye and go back for one more hug. We did that with our words, and I knew he understood my excitement and longing for the reunion with Jason. He was so proud of him and expressed his love to my family and me. He had a catch in his voice that was full of emotion, and it is a bittersweet memory I will always hold dear…he knew my heart.

Those were the last audible words I heard him speak. As I was mopping the kitchen floor around 4:00 in the afternoon, the phone rang. My mom was obviously in distress, and when I asked her what was wrong she told me he had died. I fell to the floor in disbelief. I wailed in stunned response. It was so sudden and seemingly without warning. He had a heart attack after eating lunch, was rushed to the hospital and died there.

He was gone…gone to his “Grand Reunion” that he had spoken of just hours before.

I still miss him. I love him and I am grateful that we will be reunited again someday. Without that knowledge, a difficult loss would be unbearable.

As I spoke to my mom this morning, we reminisced of his last day on earth, shed some tears and expressed gratitude for “tender mercies” that have come her way. We also expressed gratitude that the passing of time has a way of healing the sharpest pains of grief.

Although my dad will never be forgotten, on this anniversary day, his passing is softened and mellowed like the earth that has been blanketed by this peaceful layer of snow.

God be with you ‘til we meet again!