My last visit with my father began three days before his passing. I had known him as a man of few words, so the intensity and depth of the conversation we shared about the life we had spent together marked me indelibly. He emphasized that he wished he “had been able to do more [for me],” “to give [me] more.”
My simple response, “Daddy, you gave me life; you gave me my education. I could ask for nothing more,” affirmed the roles that he had played in my life. I left my father’s room that evening believing I would never again converse with him, or receive his help or guidance. My first realization that this assumption was not true occurred just days after his death.
Because of the time spent with him during his dying, and with my mother following his funeral, I had limited opportunity to fulfill my roles as the choir director. I spoke to my father about this dilemma and asked that somehow he offer assistance. The choir’s performance that Easter Sunday morning was outstanding, and during most of it, I could distinctly sense his presence.
Awareness that my father’s assistance continued beyond his grave became increasingly real during my mother’s final illness.
My instinctive response to the initial news was to seek solace at the water’s edge. Upon arrival there, my attention was immediately drawn to the magnificence unfolding before me. Mesmerized, I gazed as a large white bird elegantly lifted from the water, to be followed by another of its kind. In a splendorous display of graceful ease the pair ascended upward and eastward, until they were gently immersed in the golden radiance of the morning sunrise.
Stillness followed and, in its glow, awareness. The powerful symbolism revealed in those extraordinary moments imprinted upon my soul a knowing that a sacred union was unfolding in front of me. My father had come to accompany my mother and guide her journey homeward.
The night she died, I was privileged to witness my father walking toward her. Both dressed for travel, my parents entered a large, gothic-style building; moving forward to the far end of it, together they entered a tunnel-like opening. Although I did not witness any vehicle of travel, I knew they were leaving via some mode of transportation that would take them on the next phase of their journey together.
In the years since my mother’s death, my father has on numerous occasions, especially during times of distress, shown me that his present and support continues. Only recently, during a time when I was unconscious and near death, my father again arrived. This time, he carried me across a bridge and placed me back onto a bed in the intensive care unit where I was being treated.
As I recall these visitations from my father since his death, I am reminded of the words inscribed on one of the stones that make up a small stone circle in the courtyard of St. Mary’s Church, in Rydal, England – a little stone structure William Wordsworth had been instrumental in building.
What is it to cease to breathing
But to free the breath from its restless tides
That it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered.