Hi, Karen! Are you lonely, or do you have company?”
It wasn’t his usual opening line. I was the one who usually called Mom and Dad, finding out that they had friends over, at which time we would make the conversation brief so they could go back to visiting. I guess Dad was trying to be creative.
“No, we don’t have anyone over. But we’re about to go see a Christian film called The Least of These.”
“I think I’ve heard of it.” We continued chatting for a few minutes, finding out about each other’s day. We just hit the highlights, but it was always good to hear his voice and I savored the snippets.
Who knew that it would be our last conversation, and that 90 minutes later Dad would suddenly pass away?
Those next few days were filled with grief and reflection. Writing down my thoughts helped me heal.
His helpful, selfless hands—
opened car doors for elderly widows when he picked them up to take them to church.
His welcoming hands—
shook other people’s hands as he greeted arrivals with a welcoming smile.
His fatherly hands—
turned out his children’s bedroom lights as he said goodnight.
My dad truly lived these words: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl. 9:10).
His caring hands—
guided bicycles as his daughters learned to ride.
His careful hands—
tightened his daughter’s roller skates—much tighter than she could have done them by herself.
His thorough hands—
vacuumed and arranged desks in preparation for his daughter’s first teaching job.
His helping hands—
graded papers and guided students when he volunteered often in the succeeding years.
His loving hands—
washed dishes for Mom as she cooked and baked.
His ministering hands—
extended out to Mom’s as she stepped across hazardous terrain.
His sensitive hands—
grasped the tiny hands of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who wanted to walk by his side around the neighborhood.
His skillful hands—
tightened screws, moved boxes, organized shelves, swept floors, punched phone numbers, all with gusto.
His devoted hands—
opened the Bible as he shared God’s Word with his family.
His praying hands—
folded together, supported his head as he knelt beside his bed and prayed for loved ones.
My dad truly lived these famous words: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl. 9:10).
I long for the day when once again those hands and arms will be wrapped around my shoulders as he gives me a great daddy-loving squeeze and says, “I love you.”
That first night after I arrived at my parents’ place, after everyone had gone to bed, I leaned against the doorframe of his office, looked around, and envisioned my dad going through the routine of the day before. Just the day before I was on the phone talking to Dad. He was here in this place. It all happened so fast, and it seemed so surreal. I didn’t want to lose the scene in my imagination, so I sat down and wrote:
he was walking this hall.
he was grabbing a bowl from this cupboard.
he was getting ready for church.
he was talking to me on this phone.
he was sitting in this chair reading.
he was standing at the top of these stairs.
he will rise in the resurrection.
our eyes will meet and light up.
our hands will touch.
And tomorrow —
He’ll grasp my own
And I’ll grasp his own
As we rise together as a family toward heaven.
our voices will proclaim.
And tomorrow that sound will be praise.
Yes, tomorrow we’ll proclaim praises
to the King of kings, the Lord of lords!
Jesus will declare, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:23).
we will never part.
Yes, we experience pain in our yesterdays and todays. Yes, their losses give us sorrowful todays. But God be praised, we have tomorrow.
Karen Birney writes from Pasco, Washington.