Stairway to Heaven

My father passed away in February of 1990 after a grueling battle with an unbeatable foe.  He was only 54.

His face became emaciated, his nose a point.

He was experiencing heart failure, and this became the in-the-moment cause of his death to stomach cancer.  This is what you would read if you viewed his death certificate.

I watched the swelling creep from his feet and up his legs, which seemed to turn to stone. They looked as though they would burst like ripe fruit if scratched. I watched the swelling pass his hips. When his chest began to enlarge and harden, I knew he was close to being entombed in his own flesh. I knew he was going die but I didn’t let myself truly know it.

Sitting on the floor of the bathroom of our second floor apartment, I cried to God late at night. I didn’t want to wake my husband. We were both weary from traveling to and from the hospital—though the emotional fatigue took a higher toll. I pled with God until the tears would not come.  Each night I cried myself dry so that, completely spent, I could finally sleep.

I was actually shocked to get the news of my father’s death. Such is the nature of human denial.

Throughout my life, my father shied away from church attendance. He was not interested in discussing spiritual matters; and he periodically ridiculed me, my mother, and my sister, for representing ourselves as Christians. We were–and remain–so flawed, it is true. But isn’t that the very reason for seeking Jesus?

On one of the last days I knew my father, we shared an intimate conversation about faith. He did believe, he confessed. He told me about “walking an aisle” as a child. I wondered, but never asked, what had caused him to remain so silent all these years. I wondered, also, how all of our lives might have been different if he had not just believed, but worked to access the transforming power of the cross. My father was a difficult and sometimes abusive man….

After his death, I believed he was with God but solace was hard to come by. My then 5’8” frame shrank to 114 pounds, and coworkers expressed concern.

A dream provided a great balm to me during this time. I awoke knowing he had been with me.

In the dream, I opened the door to the basement of my childhood home and began to walk down the steps. As I descended, my father began to ascend. He looked as he had at around age 35 or 40.

Neither of us said a word. Our eyes met and held. In his look, I felt the realness of his presence.

He wore on his face the tiniest smile of contentment and mirth. No ear-splitting grin or words of reassurance were needed. My father was peaceful; and he conveyed this, and a depth of affection, through this simplest of glances.

We passed silently and didn’t look back.

I knew he was happier than he had ever been.stairway

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