The following column is an opinion piece and reflects the views of only the author and not those of The Georgia Virtue.
By: Dr. William F. Holland Jr., minister, chaplain, and author of the column series ‘Living on Purpose’. You can read more about the Christian life and see other works by Dr. Holland at billyhollandministries.com
I went for a quiet walk the other day, to relax and sort through my thoughts like the stacks of messages and notes on my desk. While gazing at the clear sky and breathing in the cool air, it dawned on me that it’s been almost five years since my dad passed away. Honestly, it seems like yesterday. I realize that many people grew up without a father or a mother and I’m very sympathetic about that. Thank God, there are great stepdads and stepmoms that have stepped into difficult situations and have been a much-needed tower of strength and stability in the life of a child. We realize that everyone who manages to enjoy a normal life expectancy will eventually outlive their parents. This means that most of us will be required to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye to those who were always the center of our universe. Whether you have already walked through this valley or if this event has not yet happened, we will most likely be left to continue in our winter years without our mom and dad.
When my wife Cheryl and I were married, our parents were in their early forties and everyone seemed so young and filled with dreams and expectations. We were in shock when her dad passed away four years later from cancer at the age of 48. She remembers as a tom-boy, crawling under cars and watching him work on them as she had no brothers. She did not have a clue what he was doing but just enjoyed spending quality time alone with him. Working on an old car was probably aggravating to him, but to her, it was exciting as she was like a nurse trying to figure out what type of wrench to hand him next or more than likely what size hammer he needed. Soon after we married, we rented a little house in town and on Saturday mornings after I left for work, her dad would stop by with donuts, and they would have some coffee and talk. Through the years I’ve listened to her mention about how he was such an important part of her security and how she wishes their time together had been longer.
It does feel strange when I think that my dad is no longer here. I remember the first few months after he passed that sometimes in the evenings, I would pick up the phone to call him. When I would come to my senses, I not only realized he’s not there, but he’s never coming back. These are the moments we begin to understand how fragile life is and how we take our blessings for granted. As we grow older, we begin to accept the reality that our parents will not always be with us along with being reminded of our own mortality. When other people lose a parent we have sympathy for them, but we will never truly know the pain until we go through this personally as we are more closely connected to our mother and father than anyone else in the world. I was glad that I made the extra effort to call and visit with my dad often and I encourage everyone to do the same while you still can.
It’s only natural to feel a sense of loneliness as we miss hearing their voice and listening to their thoughts. You will eventually notice that you have some of your parent’s traits and quirks but that’s alright because it makes you feel closer to them and appreciate them more than ever. You will always be filled with their memories as even the simple things like your dad mowing the yard and watching his favorite team or your mom putting the food on the table and giving you a big hug. There is a poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian called, “Shifting the sun” and she expresses so beautifully about losing a parent. Here is one of the lines, “When a parent dies, you lose your umbrella against bad weather, they take your childhood with them and your sun shifts forever.” I cannot communicate as eloquently as she, but just as we will follow in the natural cycles and seasons of life and death, we are also filled with hope and joy to know this life is not the end of our journey. For those who are born-again in Christ, our salvation includes the exciting and encouraging promise that one day we will be reunited with our parents forever.