As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.
— Isaiah 66:13
The following essay, Dad’s Messenger, turned blog post, I wrote shortly after my dad’s death. I chose this particular piece because it illustrates life in what I, and many of my cohorts, refer to as “the fourth dimension.”
In the fourth dimension, among other things, we live on pure faith. Moreover, I am sharing Dad’s Messenger with WTF readers as a dose of comfort, especially for those who have lost loved ones.
Note: Living in the fourth dimension, however, does have its challenges, and I will expound on that idea later in the week.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy Dad’s Messenger. I hope it brings you the faith you need for living through challenging times.
During the last days of his life, I wearily entered the hospital’s crowded elevator on my way to visit my 86-year-old father in the intensive care unit. A dark-haired man dressed in a white-striped and blue cotton shirt, black pants and loafers met my eyes and smiled. I wedged myself next to him in the only empty corner of the elevator. My eyes focused on the numbers over the door as they alternately glowed red: L-1-2-3. Abuzz with noontime traffic swarming in and out, we traveled to the speed of molasses. Exhausted from the effect of my father’s deteriorating health, which had escalated over the prior month, the last thing I wanted was to engage in small talk.
“I’m visiting my mother. She’s in the ICU,” the man who had met my eyes stated.
“My dad is in ICU,” I blurted, irritated at his intrusiveness.
“My mother is in the final stages of cancer,” he whispered with puppy-dog eyes.
Suddenly, my empathy overrode my desire for privacy. “Yeah, it’s not easy,” I said letting down my guard. “I’ve been in and out of the hospital since my dad was diagnosed with emphysema four years ago. They say, it won’t be long…he won’t go home.”
“My mom was diagnosed with cancer eleven months ago,” the man elaborated as we exited the elevator. For a moment, we stood there. “She was doing great, up until a week ago. That’s when she took a turn.”
“I’m sorry,” I said and meant it.
We parted, going to opposite ends of the ICU facility. After walking past the sound of the familiar beeping of IVs, I sat quietly in front of my dad’s bed. Although in a coma, his body still resembled a NFL linebacker’s physique. The rhythmic movement of his chest put me in a trance.
His booming voice, thick with accent, rang in my mind. ‘Get out of here! There is nothing for you to do. Go on with your life.’ Since my youth, I regarded him as a Ukrainian-born stallion; strong, sometimes ornery, but always keeping a watchful eye on his herd. My father never dwindled from his priorities and approached life with an overdose of common sense. He was not one for saccharine behavior. Instead of a sentimental “I love you,” he opted to say things like “Stay out of trouble,” spoken in true John Wayne vernacular. Both our characters defined the elements of conflict in fiction: The dreamer living under the rule of the pragmatic father.
As the afternoon wore on, I finally arose from the over-sized vinyl chair. “I love you, pops,” I said the three words to him that were so foreign to his own repertoire.
I had accepted his stoicism many years ago, because I realized that if we were in a lifeboat and one of us were to die, instinctively he would have given his life for me—as he would have for my two brothers. Despite a decade of turbulence, in the end, forgiveness had sealed our relationship. In the process, I had learned to love him unconditionally.
Roaming back outside the unit, to my surprise, I ran into the dark-haired man at the same spot where we had last seen one other. We exchanged smiles.
“No change,” he said as we rode down an empty elevator. I nodded my head in return. As we silently exited the elevator, he walked a couple of steps behind me. In the parking lot, we met up again.
“You know, this is where the maternity ward was when I was born,” the man said.
“Yeah, right where we are standing. I was born here 40 years ago,” he explained.
Upon hearing this statement, I froze. “You were born here, 40 years ago? So was I! That’s so weird…don’t tell me…August…”
“Wow! What are the odds of that? We were roommates, and now here we are,” I interjected.
“That’s right, oh, by the way, your dad…”
“Loves you very much! He’s proud of you, too.”
Suddenly, unexpectedly, my throat burned and tears fell. Regaining composure, I looked up to ask him how he knew this. However, without a trace, the man had vanished. Wiping the last few tears, I pictured our bassinets so many years ago in this identical spot. Then I studied the hospital’s facade and knew it had all come full circle, everything had been mended without a rift left to darn.
“Thanks, dad, for the message, which I already knew since you ingrained the truth,
not with words but with actions, on my heart so long ago.”
As I walked towards my car, the tar beneath my feet gleamed with a glint of sparkly quartz that could have been angel dust.
Stay tuned!…until next time…walk by faith not by sight!