Regular readers may recall that two weeks ago I mentioned a family member who had just been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. That person was my father, and he died last Tuesday. In this post, I want to share one aspect about what made him special and how I am celebrating his life in this Eastertide.
Dad was a research physicist and a dedicated father, and one thing that has touched me most closely is that he was also a singer with a fine tenor voice. When I was in grade school, he belonged to the Fiesta Singers musical group (we jokingly used to call them the Siesta Singers!). I learned many of the popular songs of the sixties and seventies (“Yesterday” and “Lemon Tree” spring immediately to mind) through the voice of my father. He also sang in the church choir and served as cantor for many religious services.
As children, we grew up hearing him rehearse. I still remember when my brother was perhaps three or four years old, and Dad was rehearsing the iconic “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” for a holiday performance of Handel’s Messiah. After listening to him rehearse, my brother started strutting around the house singing, “Everybody shall be exhausted”!
As I mentioned two weeks ago, we knew my father was sick during Holy Week this year. The Paschal Vigil service is probably one of my favorites. This is in part because of the Exsultet, which my father used to sing when the Presbyterian church of my youth first began to do Vigil services. Listening to a cantor sing it in the darkened sanctuary at St. Philip’s was especially poignant, as I wondered whether I would ever hear my father sing again. The answer is no…but I am grateful for the years of my life that were filled with his voice.
I am most definitely still in liminal space during this Eastertide—as are many of us. I know that the days ahead will be filled with joy and pain, laughter and tears…and with many blessed memories, including hiking with Dad in the Colorado mountains and traversing Europe with the family on the train. While our relationship had its rough spots (as I think all do), I am grateful to have been with him on my most recent birthday and to give glory to God for a life well-lived.
This week, I invite you to recall your father or other parental figures who have blessed you with faithfulness, song, a heart for hiking in the mountains, and/or other important aspects of who you have become. Thanks be to God for those who raise us and their faithfulness to the task.
May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.