This coming Saturday, Debbie, Ben, and I will go to Ohio for a memorial service for my mother and father. We will pick up Luke along the way. My father died in October and my mother on New Year’s Eve. A piece of who I am must now be reformed. I used to be my parents’ son—an adult son but a son nonetheless. How are things different now?
I find myself aware of the questions I will never ask my father. Our house has a septic tank. What should I do to care for it? I would’ve asked him that. Roughly, how much would it cost to put in a gas fireplace? Another question I would’ve asked. What kind of tomato plant would do well in a colder climate? He would’ve known. These are questions I will never ask. I still live with the sense that at some point I will have the opportunity to ask these accumulated queries. I suspect, with time, that sensation will fade; but for now he lives on in these unanswered questions.
There are conversations I would have had that will never be. I feel as if I should have taken a picture of how deep the snow is and sent it to my parents and then called them and exaggerated a bit. Our dog got stuck in the snow on our deck; he is a small dog. I would tell my mother about that, and she would laugh. Now she will never know.
Practical questions never asked, mundane conversations never had—these are the ways I sense their growing absence in my life. There is something so irreversible, so unrecoverable about death. It was nice having them there for 56 years. I was blessed; I had a faithful presence in my life that I did not deserve. I can’t think of a single thing I said to them that I regret. I can’t think of a deliberately hurtful thing they said to me. They did the best they could given who they were and what they had. We cannot ask anything more of anyone.
I know that they are at peace now. I know that they have inherited the life for which they were originally created, a life of wholeness and unbroken joy. I know that they have seen the face of God in all its unimaginable beauty and radiant mercy. Oh, the things they could now tell me! I don’t grieve for them, but I do miss them. I will continue to have questions, things to tell them; and they will not be there. I guess this is good thing—that I am hungry for more conversation with them, that I was not yet done telling them things. The curtain between my parents and me will grow thicker with the passage of time. I feel an urgency to say more to those who still live and fill my life with conversation and love and laughter—those people for whom there is no curtain. These moments are not forever, thus, they are precious.