Today would have been my dad’s 58th birthday. I would have taken him to see “Tron” ;-).
I dream about him often. Some of the dreams are sweet, like childhood memories from a home movie flickering on a well-worn projector screen. Around my birthday last year, for example, I dreamt I was standing in a crowded room, overlooking a beautiful white birthday cake alight with twenty-three sparkling candles. About to make a wish, I looked up and saw my dad standing among the crowd, wearing a pale pink shirt and his timelessly tender smile.
Other dreams, however, leave me with a sickening feeling. They aren’t like dreams at all, but like wished-for realities existing in some nebulous parallel universe. I see my dad plain as day, sitting in our living room, reading a book, bird-watching…everything is just as it was before he passed away. Well, almost everything…
The air in each of these dreams is thick with the distress of what has recently occurred. My dad has suffered a massive heart attack (not even the cause of his death, which was ventricular fibrillation) and my mom, brother, and I mutter to one another about the importance of improving his diet and getting him healthy as a horse. In other words, he’d had a close call, but he wasn’t dead.
Then there are the hugs. These dreams consist of nothing more than an embrace. I don’t even see his face, I simply feel the sublimity of a squeeze and the warmth it emits, knowing instinctively that it’s my daddy’s arms around me. I had such a dream two nights ago, and I remember thinking to myself as he hugged me, He’s so strong! And tall! And he’s thinner, too!
I won’t know until I join my dad in Heaven, but sometimes I’m convinced the “hug dreams” transcend objective oneirology and my REM cycle. For various reasons on earth, my dad never reached his potential height (due to injections that relieved intense joint pain), he struggled with his weight, which was only exacerbated by hypothyroidism, and while he was strong as an ox and never missed a workout, his weight masked his muscles. But (I love that conjunction sometimes!), in heaven, he is a righteous spirit made perfect, to paraphrase Hebrews 12:23. At this very moment, he is undoubtedly in the best shape of his everlasting life!
Working out and eating right are indeed essential keys we should all use to unlock flourishing health and long life. But at the end of the day, it is the Lord alone who knows when and how we will pass from earth to Paradise, from mortal to immortal. He knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs; He’ll be there when we breathe our last (Psalm 139:13), then send His angels to carry us home (Luke 16:22).
It was natural for myself, my family, and my father’s dear friends to question his early death. But was it really early? Was it not God’s will? Such questions are among life’s most complicated, and while I won’t know the perfect answer until I’m up there, I can rest in a peace that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7). Our lives are a gift. But they’re also a vapor that vanishes almost as quickly as it appears.
Not a day goes by that I do not thank God for giving me the greatest father I could ever imagine. And while only knowing him 22 years may seem unfair, I rejoice that this life isn’t all there is…
Stay fit, stay faithful, ~<3 Di