While I was Watching

  • While I was Watching
While I was Watching

We laid you to rest on a Wednesday under the wide Alberta sky. I was hoping for a stray rain cloud to disguise my tears, but I wasn’t alone in that department.

Saying goodbye to one you’ve admired since you were knee-high to a tricycle isn’t easy. But one who read you bedtime stories? Taught you to ride a bike? And loved you enough to say so? It is positively heartbreaking. Teenagers don’t hang out in cemeteries much, but your grandkids refused to leave that Wednesday.

The night before you passed away, they crowded your bed and sang the hymns you loved to hear. Twice you took my daughter’s hand and tried to raise it to your lips. When at last you succeeded in kissing it, she began to weep from sadness and joy and the delight of another memory she’d carry for life.

And that’s what you were about, Dad. Memories. When I was a lad, I loved to sneak up on you and watch what you were doing when you didn’t know I was there. That’s when you became my hero, I suppose.

When you thought no one was watching I learned how to treat a woman. I learned to honour her and open doors for her and when to tip my hat. I learned that we’re toast without the ladies, so put them first in line at potlucks. I learned to let them stroll on the inside of the sidewalk so when we’re hit by an oncoming truck they’ll still be around to care for the kids.

When you thought no one was watching I learned what was worth chasing. You avoided the deceptive staircase promising “success,” investing in memories instead. You never owned a new car, but scrounged to buy tent trailers for family vacations. Watching your life, I learned that simplicity is the opposite of simple-mindedness, that those who win the rat race are still rats. Going through your dresser I found your glasses, heart pills and a reading lamp. I suspect you’re doing fine without them. In a file marked “Will” you’d misplaced a note Mom gave you listing your attributes. She made you sound like Father Teresa. “On time for work. A gentleman. Filled with integrity. Wholesome in speech. Loves family. Loves God.” It’s the best inheritance a child could hope for.

When you thought no one was watching I learned how to bring God’s Word to life. Hours before you passed away I had you to myself. You were struggling to breathe and my singing didn’t help, so I told you I loved you and thanked you for being a good dad. Then I opened the old Bible I watched you read when I was a boy. You’d underlined some glorious verses in Revelation 21 and I read them to you nice and loud, of that place where our tears will be wiped dry and our question marks straightened into exclamation points. By the time I reached the promise that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you were sound asleep. Friday morning the sun rose on your face and you simply stopped breathing. No more tears. No more Alzheimer’s. Home free.

When you thought no one was watching I learned how to die. With relationships intact, with nothing left unsaid.

Thanks for hunting trips and fishing lessons. Thanks for majoring on the majors. And for a thousand timeless memories. Most of all, thanks for giving me a glimpse of what God looks like.

Tonight I’ll lay flowers on your grave once again, and past the tears I’ll determine to keep that twinkle alive. To live so the preacher won’t have to lie at my funeral. As you cheer me on, all the way Home.