My earthly father was brilliant physicist and a Godly man. He had a lot of challenges and a lot of flaws, but he also had a fierce faith. He believed that one day science would prove the existence of God. My father taught me a lot about randomness and chaos, about math and probability theory, about the synchronicity of the universe. My father used to say, perception is not reality, time is not linear, and “you know not what you think you know.”
He introduced me to Einstein, to Bertrand Russell, to Thomas Aquinas, to Michelangelo. Never mind how old I was, my father knew where I’d been, what I’d seen, and what was to come. He never worried about how much I could understand or what my intellectual limitations were. He also introduced me to classical music, to Bach and Mozart…and to Woody Guthrie and Johnny Cash. My father loved art and beauty, what he called the higher selves of men.
My father loved to mess with people’s heads, too. He was really good at it. Someone would ask him, “How do you know God’s not dead?” and he’d snap back, “how do you know you’re not?” I once spent nearly 3 weeks wondering if I were dead and didn’t know it. Yep, that was my father. He loved to challenge people to think outside the box.
Those of you who read this blog may recall that I was taken from my father in a messy custody battle when I was 3 years old. It took me nearly a decade to find him again. All those formative years were lost to us. My father spent every dime he had on lawyers and private detectives, trying to find me. He never gave up, he never stopped trying. He wrote me letters everyday, letters I never got. When I pushing 12, I found one of those letters and quite literally escaped the world of cults and communes, and went to live with my father. We spent two blessed years together, before the family court system stepped in and separated us again, and I was sent back to my mother.
If there is any thing my father would want people to know it is that, God is real…. and Fathers are such an
incredibly important part of the equation. Life really is like an equation and if you don’t get all the parts right, your answers will be wrong. Fathers have such a significant impact on our lives, our communities, our identities, that even in their absence, they are felt. Perhaps they are felt even more in their absence. We now know from research that the absence of fathers can have a tragic impact on entire communities in ways we are only beginning to understand.
I reunited with my father for the second time when I was in my late teens. We wrote letters and spoke on the phone nearly everyday. I went to visit him, he came to visit us. He had the chance to get to know his grandchildren, to share pictures and stories and memories. He never stopped trying to teach me about the world. (Not the world he’d say, the entire universe. Stop trying to shrink your world, he’d say.)
My father taught me so much about integrity and about the honor of men. A week before he passed away he called me up for a long and urgent conversation. “Listen to me, there isn’t much time,” he said. (I inquired as to his health. It was good, he had just come from the doctor.) “Listen to me,” he said, “I want you to understand something. Everything that happened between your mother an I, it was my fault. I take full responsibility.” And he proceeded to tell me the whole story, every tiny sin he had committed, every choice he had made that he thought was wrong. With such humility, such grace, such honor, he took it all upon himself. He wanted me to completely forgive my mother, not for her sake, but for mine. Parents are such an important part of our identity and he didn’t want my identity tainted by unforgiveness. “Honor your mother and father,” he said, “Not for their sake, but for yours.” “It doesn’t say honor your good mother and father,” he said. “There is no fine print in that commandment.”
I have my sweet father, I have. I forgive my mother, in fact she lives with us now. Some days I have to forgive her 70 times 70 and then start all over, but I do it. I honor both my parents daily. Am I not my father’s daughter?
My father passed away after having eaten a dozen chocolate chip cookies for supper. My father never had much use for biology, for blood sugar levels, for the importance of health. He would quite happily forget to eat while working his equations like a mad scientist engrossed in his task. I always think of the movie “Michael”, when I think of my father’s passing. He died from eating chocolate chip cookies, but he knew, he knew his death was coming, and he prepared me for it.
We buried my father in simple linen, much like Jesus was buried. He would have liked that. We buried him in simple linen, but we placed him in a well known cemetery, surrounded by famous people and works of art.
About a month after my father passed away, I was haunted by him. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, in a full blown anxiety attack, and hear my father’s voice saying, “we were deceived, there is no after life!” My husband would wake up and say, “I think I smell your father’s cologne?” It started to get a bit spooky. Night after night, I was tormented. I am ashamed to say it took me nearly three weeks to become irritated with the nightly interruptions and to finally speak into the darkness, “if there is no afterlife, then you cannot be real!”
I swear, I heard my father chuckle. He always did like messing with my head.
This is repost I wrote back in May. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You are more precious to me then you will ever know.