As Father’s Day approached this year—the first without my Dad—I found myself warily circling my emotions, sometimes backing away, sometimes drawing in closer to examine them. Facebook hasn’t helped with its perky little ‘memories’ that pop up every morning: three years ago we were all having coffee at Second Cup; a year ago, lunch at CCJ.
How do I feel that Dad is not here to hug, or give a box of chocolates to, or have a cappuccino with?
To be honest, I feel a mix of emotions.
Guilt, that I’ve carried on living with a fair amount of joy.
Fear, that I’m starting to forget him—his laugh; the way he squinted at you and closed his one (blind) eye when he was telling you something he felt particularly passionate about; the way he teased his grand-kids. His very essence, in fact.
Regret, that I didn’t ask him things that only he knew and that are now lost to me. Did my grandfather cultivate or purchase the bulb of my favourite miniature daffodil (Tête-à-tête), which his business became known for? What nurseries did Dad visit in Cape Town on his annual business trips (I was there in April, and had a sudden longing to retrace his footsteps)? Stories about his grandparents and parents and childhood. His first memories of living in occupied Holland as a child.
Sadness, that he is gone, mixed with a bit of anger at the thought that he should have been with us a while longer.
And then, in that tumultuous mix, there is gratitude that I had a father who loved me and was proud of me and would have done anything for me. A father who taught me to dream and to follow those dreams. His love of history and people and stories indelibly wove its way into my life and turned me into who I am—and what I do—now.
It’s the gratitude I want to take with me into the world this Father’s Day. I can’t make a fuss of him on the day, but I will remember my father…his love, his humour, his zest for living, his gentle and peaceful way.
I love you Dad, still. So, so much. Happy Father’s Day.
I wrote the following prayer for my upcoming book Journeys. It follows on from the story of Lazarus:
You wept Lord, at that grave, and you see my tears too:
those I’ve cried
and those that well up inside
Why did you make us to love so deeply
when you knew it would end like this:
Separated by a veil some have called thin,
thin as the last weak breath
that blows it aside.
They’re wrong. It’s not a veil but a wall
of stone, impenetrable and dark.
You did it once before, Lord:
Called into that cold void,
shook the very foundations
and brought back just one, through the veil of stone.
Back to warmth, to laughter and dancing.
Back to life.
I know you will do it again, Lord,
on that last, long day away.
That I too will embrace my love, my Lazarus.
Until then Lord, stand close and weep with me.