I’ve found it difficult to write lately. My writers block is a defense mechanism. Shielding me from the feelings that stream through my fingertips as I write. The new year. The snow. The cold. They all paint a picture of a moment that is etched into my life, yet one I would so desperately like to keep frozen. It is a cold memory. I don’t like the cold.
It’s amazing how life goes in circles. How time can appear to be at a standstill, yet disappear before you can grasp it. How can it be that I’ve lived a year without my dad? Without his help? Without his texts? His visits? His hugs? When I close my eyes and remember, I can hear him. I can see him. But when I open them, I realize I haven’t heard him in a long time. I haven’t touched him in a long time. It’s not fair.
I’ve got a lot of good memories. Great, wonderful, happy memories. I cherish them. Honestly, I really do. But right now, I hate memories. I hate that when I have to speak of my dad now, it is always in the past. Nothing is new. Nothing changes. He’s just a story. A great, wonderful, happy story. But still.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Heaven. As a kid, I pictured golden gates, rainbows, and flying white horses. So unoriginal, yet so pure. The older I grew, though, the darker the gates of Heaven grew. I judged myself with a checklist. Did I say my prayers? Check! Did I say please and thank you? Check! Was I nice to my brother? Crap!
I scaled myself based on the behavior of others. She smokes, I don’t. Point, Erica. He swears, I don’t. Point, Erica. She reads her Bible…crap! Point, her.
It’s stupid, but it’s honest. In my quest to reach the pearly gates, I had turned Heaven more into Santa’s workshop than into what it truly is.
My dad and I didn’t talk “church.” We didn’t debate theology. We didn’t quote scripture. We didn’t listen to christian music. Dad and I talked about relationships, and people. We discussed what is right and wrong. We listened to sports, and watched movies.
I haven’t ever admitted this before, but one of my first thoughts when learning that we would have to drop everything and go see dad in the hospital, was fear. Does he know about Heaven? In my head, my Heaven checklist rolled out. Will he get there? Did he do enough? I needed to make sure he did.
Immature. Insecure. Afraid. That was me. It’s embarrassing, but it’s honest.
What my family went through from January 11th to January 16th of 2013 was complete and utter hell. To see the strongest man you’ve ever known lying in a hospital bed, helpless… I mean, how do you handle that? How do you grasp it all? That’s what is dark. That is what is cold. That part of his story is what I don’t like remembering.
What I do like, and what does need sharing, is that God was there. I could feel Him as soon as I walked into dad’s room. It was like a cloud of energy that hovered over him, as though Jesus was sitting with him, taking him on a journey. I desperately wanted my dad to wake up. To hear his voice again. To talk with him again. I was also, so anxious to hear where Jesus took him. What he saw. What Heaven looked like. I could only imagine the journey he was on.
I never did get to hear dad share that story.
Dad loved us so much. He looked after so many. Whatever he saw, wherever he journeyed, I know that dad chose to stay there. Dad needed to make sure we were all taken care of before his spirit left us. Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Dad did.
I am proud to be his daughter.
I am humbled too.
This past Sunday, my pastor told the story of Matthew. Matthew, a tax collector, by worldly measures was on the naughty list. Yet Jesus said, “Follow me,” and Matthew did. I loved this reminder. That Jesus didn’t come for the perfect. He didn’t come so that we could judge ourselves and condemn others. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13
Even though the reminders of those cold and dark January days are here, there is warmth in knowing I will see my dad again. I’ll just have to wait a little longer than I imagined.
Today, when I picture Heaven, I see my dad, with Jesus, standing at the shiny gold gates. There is no scroll of a checklist, just merely a question, “Have you Followed Me?”