From All Things New
He knew something about growing up in a motherless home, and about the hole it left in a boy’s heart. He knew about the ceaseless drive to make oneself whole, and about the endless yearning.
(Daniel Brown, The Boys in the Boat)
I had a surprising emotional breakthrough the weekend my father died.
Like for many people, my relationship with my dad was kind of a mixed bag. My boyhood days were very precious. My father loved the outdoors, and we did a lot of camping and fishing together; I have golden memories of those days. But then the fall of man caught up with him: a series of lost jobs, followed by the drinking; then a stroke; then cancer; finally that brutal mocker, dementia. He spent his last days in a small convalescent facility in Southern California, then came home for hospice.
He died on Father’s Day weekend, of all sad things.
We’d been expecting it, living in those awful days of waiting that so often come at the end. Stasi and I had gone up to our cabin in the mountains; there is no phone service there, so I would drive the three miles down a dirt road to the highway, morning and evening to check in with my sister. On that Saturday morning when I reached cell service I saw there was a message; I decided to listen to it before calling her back. Sure enough – it was the call no one wants to get, explaining Dad had passed in the night.
I put the phone down and just sat in my truck in the early morning, waiting for the waves of grief, sorrow, and regret. So much had been lost; so much irrecoverable. The sun was just coming over the mountains, and the irrigation ditch was bubbling next to me like a brook; the meadowlarks called to one another across the lush hay fields. It was not a melancholy scene at all. As I gazed on the flowing water rippling over water grasses, I thought of a scene in The Silver Chair.
Toward the end of the story, the children sent to Narnia find themselves once again high on Aslan’s mountain. King Caspian has died, and even though they have left that sad scene back on the quay, the funeral music is still somehow playing around them:
They were walking beside the stream and the Lion went before them: and he became so beautiful, and the music so despairing, that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears.
Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond….
“Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there and bring it to me.” Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier. “Drive it into my paw, son of Adam” said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pad toward Eustace. “Must I?” said Eustace. “Yes,” said Aslan.
Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to gray, and from gray to yellow, and got shorter and vanished all together; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leapt up and stood before them – a very young man…. And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave the wild kisses of a lion.
This moment is yours, as sure and certain as God himself. Sure as the renewal of Heaven and Earth. How else could we enjoy the fierce beauty of a renewed creation unless we, too, are renewed and made strong, stronger than we ever were here? How could we possibly play in the fields of a new Earth or fulfill our roles in the Kingdom of God unless we are, well – glorious?