Letter Written to My Father

September 17, 2004 (Two Months)

Dear Dad,

I can't believe it's already two months since we said goodbye to you. I'm still trying to accept the fact that you're really gone and won't be coming home again. The memories of your last six weeks on earth are still etched within my mind and very connected to my heart. Even while you were in the hospital, you were such an example to me. I watched you go through so many painful procedures, six of which failed, and then receive one negative report after another. You were such a "trooper," but you were more than that.

Each day you faithfully gave thanks to God for this battle, no matter what pain you were in or how grim the report was. I never understood how you could truly be thankful for this illness; in fact, I still have a hard time being thankful that God took you home so early.

I specifically remember the last day you had on earth. Never did I realize that when I arrived at your bedside that Thursday morning, it would be the last time we would be together. I recall standing by your bed and with tears in my eyes, I shared how sorry I was. I couldn't help but feel like I failed you, that perhaps I could have done something more for you. You quickly grabbed my arms and with the limited energy left in your body, you began to remind me one last time - a message I will never forget: "Remember, from the very first day I was diagnosed, I shared that God has a plan. Everything is going to be ok."

Despite my mixed feelings these days, you prepared me and showed me how to die well, that leaving this earth can be done with dignity, love and, yes, a sense of faithfulness even to the end. You honored your family but, more importantly, you honored your God.

Dad, I'm reminded of the wonderful pronouncement that came from heaven just after Christ was baptized in the Jordan. The Voice said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Although we're given a limited sense of what heaven is like, maybe you have already heard these words as you entered that new realm. You are dearly loved. In fact, you're sensing a love that none of us could ever offer you, a love that is unconditional, intimate, and eternal.

I still find it ironic that after being away for 14 years, I finally came home to only say goodbye to you - my father, my friend, and greatest mentor. My heart still aches; it doesn't have the same rhythm when we were together sharing, encouraging, and continually dreaming of how we could make a difference in a hurting world. You were always two steps ahead.

At this point, all I can say is that your son and your family miss you very much. Each day, I wake up hoping you will come home soon and that this was just a dream, but when I come to my senses, I'm reminded of the truth. We rejoice that you suffer no longer and that God can now enjoy his time with you. But just as our Lord enjoys that time with you, we miss that time also. I miss that time with you - the touch of your hand on my shoulder, the touch of your hands on my head when you prayed for me, and the heart that loved me despite my own limitations.

I realize how selfish I am to still want you around. But if I could see another side of this situation, it is that I had 33 wonderful years with a man I hope to honor and follow after. I love the man you were. In your own unique fashion, it was your humanness that showed me the way to our Lord. I have so much to be grateful for and will try to keep that perspective as I move forward in this new phase of my life.

I love you, pops.

With love,