“Dear Dad, One day we’ll gather”
On a rain-lashed night, we sit, Mister and I, in a motel room, talking. They’re down here for meetings, our Canadian friends, and we are, at long last, catching up. Then the phone call that altered the landscape, a hurried trip up the bypass and the text that came through while en route: “He is gone.”
Dear Dad Schrock,
It struck me, standing there in the house where the Death Angel had come calling. Only minutes before we’d arrived, your soul slipped away, rising, rising through roof, over town and then on to heaven. As villagers slumbered, you awakened at last…in every great sense of the word.
In the kitchen on the back side of the house, my eyes lit on the old, tired rug that angled just so at the door. Surreal, really, to think that three sweeps of clock’s hand, turned back, your feet had come in, crossed that rug one last time. Then the Big One, it hit. One word (“Okay!”), and a still form ‘neath a shroud on the floor, feet in slippers.
On a dark, rainy night, your feet had walked in the back door to be carried hours later through the front. In those slippers.
What a blur, those next days. Hours of planning, of calling. Of receiving your friends, shaking hands. A fog of exhaustion and shock, a thick blanket that muffled, dulling the edges, pressing down.
There are two things, Dad, that stand out in my mind now on this day a year out, and both of them came at your funeral. The first one happened at the very end of the service. The congregation had filed past for one final farewell, and the ushers had sent them on out. Then, it was our turn.
It is a true and hard thing, that no parent is perfect. To deny this reality is to be less than honest, and no healing or freedom can grow in that soil.
The truth is that hurt people, hurt people. And if hurt-chains aren’t broken, they’re passed right down. Things get messy, and generations later, they feel it.
Terrible words (my heart hurts) uttered by a parent left a mark. “The shy fat boy.” That’s what he said, and I’m not sure, Dad, that your heart ever healed. So much pain, and then hurt-chains linking on down. To generations, the ones that came after.
Anyway, it was at the casket, and it was our turn. As the oldest child, your son led the way, and he gathered us around one last time. We six, two and four. Looking at your still form cradled in satin, hands folded in that old, familiar way, I said this to our sons, they all bearing your last name: “In heaven, we will get to have perfect relationships.”
And there–oh, yes–there it came. From one of our sons, next generation of the faithful, “I forgive you, Grandpa.” Right there in that church, hurt-chains falling, falling down to the ground at our feet.
It’s a true and hard thing, Dad, that we aren’t perfect parents, either. But the grand and good news (that’s the gospel) is this; that we can repent. We can seek forgiveness. We can run hard after healing and truth. And we are!
We can be the “repairers of walls” with our sons, all four, impacting the next generations. This is our heart’s true desire.
But now, back to your funeral. Each of the five had gathered with their families for those last, sweet moments with you. And then…
Then two ushers stepped forward. Wooden lid, it came down and beside me, a small voice, it spoke out. “Goodbye, Grandpa. Goodbye, Grandpa.” Little S., saying one more goodbye. Lid falling.
We miss you, Dad. The Kaboom isn’t the same. Your huge, old car that you loved with the voluminous trunk packed to the gills with those boomers. The sheepish grin you would get as the grandsons came crowding to look at the bounty you brought. I miss that.
The orange cottage cheese Jello salad that the grandkids all love, mandarin oranges arranged in a face on the top.
That one chuckle you had when the boys did something great. I can hear it, and I miss it right now. Miss your presence.
You’ll be happy to know, Dad, that the boys are walking well. Oldest Son’s a Fight Club Man, and that makes us so proud. Kid Kaboom’s racing hard, racing strong ’round the world. Our quiet one (the one that you called for help with electronics?), he just came back from Kenya. God poured out His Spirit on that kid, and he loved well. And lastly, our precious caboose. He is thriving, getting ready for a new baseball season. He’ll miss you when he’s out on the field.
So will we.
We are so happy to know that you’re happy and whole, and you know–really know–that you’re loved. No more hurting.
We’ll keep pressing on, breaking chains, sowing truth. Then one day, we’ll gather in a different kind of chain, circle full and complete, links of love.