One Year Later

Letter I left in front of my dad's tombstone today (7/21/04)

Dear Dad,

It’s hard to believe that one year has already gone by since you went on to be with Jesus. It still feels like yesterday when you and I were talking about our future and what God was calling us to do. How I loved to talk with you and hear your voice.

The other day, one of your closest friends called me to see how I was doing especially since your one year anniversary was approaching. It was so nice to hear a familiar voice. He reminded me so much of you through his care and concern. As I began to share, however, I realized I couldn’t get the words out. I was just too emotional to muster any form of sentences or coherent thoughts. Feeling embarrassed, I just paused, hoping that I could regain some composure to share what I wanted to communicate. Your friend was so gracious with me, stating “It was ok. No need to talk.” I realized, then, how much your absence still impacts me.

During this past year, I’ve met with several individuals who knew you well; some knew you for a brief time. But all shared that there was something special that you gave to them, a special part of you. It’s listening to these individuals share which reminded me of how special you really were.

Personally, I wish you were home with us again. I miss seeing your face, your joy and the love you so freely shared. As I was driving earlier this morning to the cemetery, I recognized how sad I felt that I’m finally home after spending 14 years in higher education; yet, I’m home and you’re gone. These beautiful, sunny days brought to memory the few times we went for a walk at Caumsett State Park. There were no distractions. Just time to open up and be men. Sharing with you was a way for me to also dream, to see and think forwardly, or just catch a glimpse of people being changed from the inside/out. Obviously I don’t have that privilege of walking with you anymore. I now walk with Kole everyday as you once did before I returned home. I can see he really misses you also. Just the mention of your name causes him to put his head down or let out a long sigh (I’m serious). You touched his precious life also.

This summer I started a garden as I once had when I lived in FL. It’s been quite therapeutic for me to separate a little from my work, to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, but also see new life grow and produce fruit. I wish I could share it with you and show you each vegetable and herb. Mom comes out occasionally, but I know she wishes you were around. On a few occasions, she has shared with me how the two of you used to work around the yard. You dug all the holes in the ground and she would set the plants in the hole. Then, you surrounded it with topsoil. How she misses those special times with you.

Just saying I miss you these days doesn’t seem to capture what I feel in my heart. I’m not sure I will ever be able to capture the essence of your life as it encircled mine. I’m indebted to you more than you will ever know; perhaps, more than I even know. I long to feel your embrace and I long to embrace you, that irreplaceable hug which said, “I love you.”

You know my favorite movie has always been Field of Dreams. In so many ways it was autobiographical of my life. I always dreamed of being a professional ball player, but those dreams quickly faded when I had that major baseball accident in boarding school. I know you remember it quite well. You were right by my side with mother through every operation.

For years, one of the themes I extracted from the movie was the idea of people fulfilling their dreams. So many people in the world live lives with unfulfilled dreams. Maybe one day, I can help fulfill the dreams of a few as you did with so many.

But now I see another theme that has even more meaning for me: the notion of a son wanting one last baseball catch with his father. That’s how I feel. It’s not just that special catch in the driveway (which I always longed for as a young boy) that I miss; it was the privilege of being with you, of being in your presence. I was a simple, little boy who admired and looked up to his father and, you know what, that little boy still looks up to you. He’s just aged a bit and looks a little older.

Dad, I don’t know how to tell you in so many words other than I miss you dearly. I know we will meet up one day and I anticipate that warm embrace from you. In the mean time, I want to follow your model somehow. I pray that in some small way, I may touch a life as you touched so many around the world. I love you, pops.

Wishing you were home,