I'm not one to cry on the phone, but I just couldn't make the words out. My parents' pastor asked if we'd like him to come over. I mumbled, "yes" and hung up.
My Dad had just died in the basement of my childhood home. That's where he wanted it to happen. We found out he was very sick just a few weeks before his death day, six years ago today. I sometimes wonder how much earlier he knew he was sick before the rest of us found out. He once told my wife that he knew he wouldn't live to be very old.
I was adopted as an infant. I came out round and chubby, and my Dad was round and chubby too. The social worker said it was a perfect match. I'd love going with Dad to work in the summers. He drove around the big city all day, and we got to eat in the car. When we'd make deliveries people would comment on how much we looked alike. He never told them I was adopted. I followed his lead.
My parents recorded all sorts of home movies in the 80s and 90s. When we were packing up to move from South Dakota we dubbed them onto DVD. It had been a while since I'd heard my Dad's voice. There he was on the screen receiving birthday presents in 1988, his 40th. He provided jokey commentary for my grandparents' 50th anniversary. We even have a recording of when he played Caiaphas for his church's Easter play.
Watching those videos it was strangely familiar hearing his voice one more time. It's easy to take someone's voice for granted. To text instead of call. Or ignore instead of engage. But death's silence is far from golden.
While I haven't heard his voice much the past six years, I've scrolled through pictures plenty. One of my favorite gifts is a painting of him my wife had someone make for me. We even hung it in the living room of our temporary Missouri home, just so we could see it. But pictures never talk no matter how long I stare at them.
The first year after he died I'd sometimes forget he was dead. I once started to dial his number when I had a question in mind and knew he'd have the answer. I put the phone down, felt like a dummy, and then cried into my palms. Of course he had the answer, but I couldn't talk to him. And neither could my kids. Or my sister. Or my Mom. Or anyone else.
I don't have what some people call a life verse from the Bible. I'm not even sure I have a favorite chapter like some people do. But one passage that resonates with me is Hebrews Chapter 2, because it's all about death:
"But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (Heb 2:9).
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Heb 2:14-15).
Jesus is crowned with glory and honor not just because he suffered death, but because he came out on the other side alive again. In the tomb he stared down death--and death blinked.
Today is my Dad's death day, which makes it sad for past memories of his body withering away in a weird bed, and tragic for all the robbed future memories that will never happen in my family this side of God's kingdom.
But there is another side. Death's power has been broken. Death's fearful enslavement is no more. As one of my favorite sayings goes during Holy Week: "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming."
Today is my Dad's death day.
But God's kingdom is coming!