Today is turning into quite a difficult day for me. It has been building for a number of weeks, actually, and I am at a loss why this day, this year has been looming so large on my horizon. You see, today it is five years since I held the hand of the very first man I loved as he left his earthly body and went to be with Jesus. My dad. Daddy.
He was a giant in my eyes, someone who could do no wrong. He was the fixer of pain and the listener to rants. He took me to get my ears pierced at 13, he encouraged me to start my Masters degree and he passed down an obsessive love of stationery. He was the one I would call when I was wrestling with a situation in my ministry and he would speak of a similar incident he could remember from his 42 years of Salvation Army Officership and give some advice and perspective. Even now there are times when I think, “I’ll just ask Dad what he thinks”, but I can’t.
My dad used to do magic, quite literally. He used to do Gospel Illusions which means he could spiritualise ordinary magician’s feats and present them to the delight of congregations young and old, but always with a message that pointed to God. I was proud to be someone he shared them with. I remember him coaching me in my first presentations of illusions when I was a young teenager. I felt like I was his magical apprentice, which I have only recently realised is the reason why Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is my favourite Mickey character.
How I wish that he could have performed the ultimate illusion and not succumbed to the dreaded cancer that took him away from us. As I sat in that hospital room I found myself unable to let go of his strong, familiar hand with all it’s lines and veins. I hadn’t realised that I had held it as he breathed his last, as we called the nurse, as I said a prayer thanking God for his life (because that is what Dad would’ve done), as we started to come to terms with what to do next. And then I focussed on his hand, mine in his, and I couldn’t let go because I didn’t want to break that connection. Once I let go that would be it. If I just held on I could pretend that this wasn’t real, or that it wasn’t that bad. But it was, and it was. In the end my mum needed to help me be brave enough to let him go. She set aside her own grief momentarily to help me with mine.
For some reason, facing today has been especially difficult but despite this I do know these two things: I am blessed to have had him as my dad. He was, and still is, a gift to me that I am incredibly grateful for. I also know that because of his choice to accept Jesus as his Saviour, and my choice to accept Jesus as my Saviour, I will get to see him again when it is time for my own earthly journey to cease.
Part of my healing for today has been to write this. It feels indulgent, but necessary. If you have persevered by reading to this point please do this for me – Honour those you love while they are still with you, and if you do not yet know Jesus as your Saviour, take steps to make it so.