21 April 2019

Sunshine between the slats

I have a vivid memory of sitting on my dad's lap at church as a little girl; rolling his tie up into a tight cinnamon roll beneath his chin. Then I'd let go and the neat patterned fabric would race down his chest to my delight. I'll never know if this was endearing or an annoyance to him, as he was likely distracted from the Sunday messages given. I don't recall any kind of frustration on his part, as he'd let me roll his tie repeatedly. I've learned that the phrase warms my heart is actually a thing that feels real when thoughts like this bubble up in my vulnerable state. Tender father and daughter memories have been popping up clearly in my mind since my dad passed away in August. Immediately following his death, I relived his last days and weeks and months again and again in my mind's eye since they were filled with miracles and mercies (as well as so much unbelief that he was really gone). Recently though, I have been looking back on my childhood and his fathering ways with brand new eyes.

My own little girl turned three last month. Amusingly sweet and entertaining quips come out of her mouth daily. I am often alone with her nonstop (mostly coherent) chatter at mealtimes, story time or nap time when these adorable remarks come streaming out. I smile at her, praise her, laugh aloud, and often text Dan the funny things his darling daughter has come up with. She likes naming all the people who live in our home and sweetly reports, "we are a family!" She remembers her manners and randomly tells me, "Thank you mommy!" / "This is delicious, mom!" / "I sure love you, mom!" / "I'm a good maker!" (After she bakes with me and licks the beater.) One quiet afternoon while I was busy in another room, she was playing pretend with her little kitchen. I heard her knocking on the bathroom door - which she had just closed and no one was in. I later learned she'd made a pretend pie, with a tiny pot containing the only ingredient, a green plastic pear. She knocked again and left it next to the door, on the hardwood floor of the hallway. I hear her softly musing to herself, "They're not home, so I'm gonna leave it on the doorstep. They'll have a lovely surprise when they get home!"

Sometimes - no - all the time, I feel guilt that I haven't written down the classic sayings my children have said, the hilarious tales they tell and all the good, thoughtful and even naughty acts they've done. I had a quiet moment of reflection while sitting on my daughter's bed the other afternoon. She sat up real close to me with a peaceful, contented gaze; a possible approach to prolong nap time and she inspected my ears, my eyes, wrinkles, freckles and my mouth. As mothers tend to do, I thought what a golden moment this was and intentionally appreciated it; the afternoon sun warmed my toes through the blinds and the sun made shadows across the stack of storybooks she'd chosen. I thanked God my children are healthy and happy and we have a home so full of love and laughter. I felt the truth of my charmed existence right then. All is not right in the world, but all was right in our world. I knew Claire wouldn't remember that specific moment we shared together and how much my heart was bursting with love for her and her brothers. I felt so grateful and in love with my little simple life.

It gently dawned on me, as I watched the beautiful dust particles dance through the slats of sunshine, my dad would've had moments like this with me and all my siblings. And he would've scooped it all into his heart. So many memories packed into his parenting satchel that I can't even remember. All the parenting duties, huge sacrifices, clean-ups, squabbles and forgivenesses, chit chats, long road trips, family meals, errand runs, explanations, the listening and the endless acts of patience.. the thousands of moments wherein he was instilling his love, his encouragement, his support, and his confidence in me that live within me that I cannot even remember. How lucky and blessed am I? I am well aware that having a father who is present and loving and nurturing and wonderful is a rare and wonderful gift. I think of the millions of moments you wish you could thank them for on Father's Day that you can't conjure up the right words for. Knowing these moments between us existed gives me lots of comfort.

That overwhelming love that you feel for someone in your life who is irreplaceable. The love that spills over all of us while we cry and mourn and miss him. In my heart of hearts I sometimes wonder and hope and cry, I hope he knew how much I truly loved him... (and admired him... and respected him and wanted so much to be like him). Did I say it enough? Did he know? Because in the end (as clich├ęd as it sounds) love is what matters. That is what holds. And a dear friend Hilary, wisely advised me as I sobbed to her over brunch (as you do with dear friends), "I am sure he knew how you felt. You two had a beautiful relationship, working together and so on.. but he knows even more clearly now. He still knows how you feel." What soothing words for my aching soul. Yes, yes indeed. I believe it is so!

Today is Easter and the holiday feels more meaningful than ever before. My faith in Jesus Christ has felt much more personal since my dad died. I am striving to understand why death is such a big part of our earthly experience and why people have to suffer and feel the depth of loss and sadness. I know Christ lives and I know He felt all the pains of the world. I also have learned heaven is not too far away. I feel my dad's spirit and feel that he is content and at peace and doing good things in the afterlife. I am so excited to see him again. His presence on earth is deeply missed; family parties are different, our whole lives are different now. The hole he left in our hearts is wide. Some days I feel sadness sweep over and crash me down like an ocean wave on the sunniest of days. And then I get back up and feel fine again, it's a strange cycle but it is teaching me more about life (and what matters) than I understood before. I will end with a few of my favorite quotes by our dear prophet.

"We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life."

 "Without our Redeemer’s infinite Atonement, not one of us would have hope of ever returning to our Heavenly Father. Without His Resurrection, death would be the end. Our Savior’s Atonement made eternal life a possibility and immortality a reality for all. I testify that He is the living Christ—our Lord and Savior, Redeemer, Exemplar, and Judge. Thanks to Him, no condition is hopeless. Brighter days are ahead, both here and hereafter."
- President Russell M. Nelson

The Lord said, "Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36.)


Travelin'Oma said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with such beautiful words. ❤️

Mary said...

Beautiful words. I am glad for people who write and change my perspective. I hope this relationship with your earthly father has also inspired your view of your Heavenly Father!

Trish said...

Oh my! I have missed your writings. Welcome back!!!!

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