Remembering Dad This Christmas

As I was decorating my place this past Saturday (yes, I am running a little behind this year), my mind started to shift focus from the joy of the season and settled on the memory of my father.


This year it will be twenty years since he passed away.  I can still remember that year so vividly.  It was a rough year for me personally and it seemed to get worse as the months progressed.  I had gotten into an argument with my father that fall and then we went a brief period with neither of us speaking to one another.  I was stubborn and took his words to heart, not knowing how close everything was coming to the end.


I had been sick on and off since fall and it seemed to be getting worse as the months wore on.  I found myself in the hospital by Thanksgiving and not knowing what the future would hold.  I had a mass in my stomach and I needed surgery to resolve the issue.  I was handling all of this alone because I wasn’t really speaking to anyone in my family.  Once again I was too proud to say something and still carrying a lot of anger from my previous fight with my dad.  I never said I was very mature or coped with things very well. A nun at the hospital kept trying to get me to put down a person of contact.  I kept refusing, but she was very persuasive and soon I contacted my sister.  I relayed the information to my brother-in-law and much to my surprise on Thanksgiving night my brother came to sit with me.  We always had a tug of war relationship, but that night I felt close to him and in my heart I was very grateful he was there.


I went in for surgery the next day.  It turns out I had a blood clot in my intestine and it became infected and a foot and a half of my intestine had to be removed.  It was a painful time, but to my surprise when I had awakened from the surgery I saw my family there.  My eyes immediately (okay once they adjusted) focused on my dad.  He came to visit and we somehow mended fences over our love for the show Seinfeld.  We both loved Kramer.  We had to find some common ground in order to mend those fences.  Comedy was something we both had in common.  In fact that was the root of our last fight.  I started to do stand up comedy and he disapproved.  He was the one person I thought would have been in my corner since he was the one I drew my humor from.  He had a way with telling a story that would captivate you and no matter how many times you may have heard that story, you eagerly wanted to hear it again.  I thought this was a sign that we could straighten things out, but I was wrong.  The desire to rebuild was there, but time was not on our side.


I went home about three weeks later and I was confined to my apartment for the next few months.  Just as I went home, my father went in to the hospital.  It blew me away.  My father who never got sick, who never went to the doctor, was now in the hospital.  My family found out that ¾ of his heart was damaged and that his heart was now racing because of this.  I was not privy to this information at first due to my recovery, but I suspected something was very wrong.  It wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I had a chance to see my father and I am so glad that I took it.  His heart was racing too fast and basically, we had to wait for it to stop.  Deep down I was praying that he would get better and live for a long time, but I was blinded by my emotions and not seeing the reality of the situation.  I honestly do not think anyone of us was prepared for the next day.


I remember telling him I loved him and thinking he did not hear me, I repeated myself.  He said I know you just said that.  He then mumbled something and I could not understand what he was saying.  I wanted to hear what he was asking, but as hard as I tried, I could not understand what he said.  I do remember him clearly asking my brothers to be back at the hospital at 7 am the next morning.  We said we would and left him there to get some rest.  I kissed his cheek and left.


For whatever reason we all overslept the next day and just as we were getting ready to leave, the phone rang.  I had this sinking suspicion, but could not voice it.  Only to find out what I felt was real.  My father just passed.  The nurse assured us he was calm and he died in his sleep listening to Christmas music.  The emotions became too much for me.


By the time I was back at home, I was so angry at God.  I felt a Miller was gong to die, but I thought it was going to be me.  My dad was so vital, so needed, and who was I?  What did I contribute?  I took down the Christmas tree and the rest of the decorations.  I did not feel like celebrating.  I just cried and no comfort was to be found.  Healing was going to take a long time.  I was never going to be the same, nor was I ever going to let go of my memories of my dad.


Each year that same feeling of loss comes around and settles for a bit during the holiday season.  I feel a tightness in my throat and my eyes well up and I miss my dad so much.  I remember all of the good times and I smile when I think about him now.  He had such a great face that would instantly draw you to him.  I studied his face for hours when I was little and I was always so taken by it.  It had a strong look of contentment that covered his entire face.  I knew that he lived life well and lived it on his terms.  He got what he wanted out of life and gave so much in return.  I then remember things he gave me and my siblings.  I remember the Jenny tree he planted on my birthday, the first time he wore blue jeans, and those red suspenders.  I used to love taking a ride with him when he would get this wanderlust to just drive and go anywhere.  I would listen to his stories of the war and he would teach us so much about history.  These are the memories I cling to and cherish.  Of course his greatest gift was his love, but second to that was his sense of humor and that in and of itself, is a great treasure.


It took me a long time to come to grips with his passing.  I had to deal with my anger at God as well.  God calls each and every one of us home when He is ready for us.  I should never have questioned his plan or accuse him of anything.  That was my arrogance and I prayed for forgiveness.  It took a while, but I have resolved that issue in my life.  I know he has a purpose for me and my job is not yet done.  I, too, will be called home, but only when he deems it is my time and not a minute before.


As I finish decorating, I take a second and smile.  I am thinking of the many blessed moments I had with my dad.  I am thankful for the father I was given.  I still miss him, but the love I still carry for him consoles me whenever I feel down.  I thank God for that love.  A love he provided me.  I let my mind wander a bit more and then I get back to the task at hand.  It is a joyous season and I want to fully celebrate the reason for the joy.


Dad, I love you!  I miss you!  I know that you are still with me.  I know that I will see you again some day.  In the meantime, you are with mom and Bob and one day the whole family will be back together.


As I sing the Christmas carols, my heart is full of love and joy; I remember Christmases past and concentrate on the current one I am blessed to see.  God is good and he gave us a gift to cherish – his son.  That is the focus of the season and that love is my strength to lean upon when dealing with all the sorrow life on earth can bring.  Take a moment today and count your blessings.  Be grateful that you were so loved a child was sent to save you.  Be thankful for what you have, and as long as you have it.  People will come and go and you will grieve and miss them.  However, you are given a gift that is eternal and no one can take that away from you.  Merry Christmas Jesus!  Blessed is your name and let us praise it forever!

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