One of the aspects of my life for which I will always be most grateful, I am sure, until the end of my days, is that I was able to be a pastor while my dad was also still being a pastor. One of the things I will miss most about him is traveling with him to meetings we both needed to attend, to conferences that we both were required to go to, and to enrichment activities that we both desired to be a part of. Just this past winter, I know I scared him when I was late to our Mid-Winter Clergy Convocation with Maggie, the baby. When I arrived, so many other ministers came to me and said how worried he'd been that I wasn't there yet. I felt badly that I had worried him; nothing at all had happened, besides my taking a lackadaisical approach to getting to the conference.
Whenever we'd be book shopping together, he'd often say, "Don't buy that one; I have it. You'll get it when I die." I would always half roll my eyes and half dread that inheritance, and now it is here.
I drove home from my parents' house today with at least four boxes of books, packed and overflowing, that will go directly to my office at church and greatly enhance my bookshelves. Niebuhr, Brueggeman, Nouwen, Craddock, Dorothy Bass, Anthony Robinson, C.S. Lewis.
The thrill of having these books is obviously dampened, however. I would give anything to have my dad instead of these books.
The morning that he died, as I knelt beside the hospital bed with my head resting on his lifeless chest and arm, I remember thinking, "I would give you anything. My blood, my bones, my platelets, my marrow, my organs. Anything, to have you back, to have you living."
Obviously, I can't give those things. It wouldn't have worked. He wasn't even close to the time when a bone marrow transplant could have been possible, and even if he'd been close, his death voided that possibility.
When I read these books, I will never cease to think of him. I'm grateful that he was the type of reader who marked up the text, so perhaps there will be times when it feels like we're reading together, and I'll have some insight into what was meaningful to him from his notes in the margins.
People tell me that at some point perhaps I'll feel him all around me. Someone told me that after her husband died, she really did discover that there is just a veil between here and eternity, or at least to the spirit-world. I hope to have that encounter. I've had glimmers here and there; times when I have thought perhaps I felt a presence, a comfort, a warmth. But I don't want to be imagining it, to just be wishing it into being because I so long for it.
However, I do believe that even though I would rather have my dad than the books right now, the books will be a gift. They will be a legacy, a link to the vocation both of us so love(d). Thank you, Daddy, for the wonderful books, and for all that you were, all that you desired to be, that is part of this library that is now mine.