I wake to the sound of howling wind and rain shaking the trees, forcing them to try and hold their ground. I go to the bedroom window to see trees bend and branches sail through the air, rustled and unsettled, just like me. I smell the cool air, squint up at the watery grey sky, and think, “Tears from heaven.” Today is the sixth anniversary of the day my father died.
I crawl back into bed and my body tenses as I recall getting the call on that day he died. My anxiety rises. I place a red blanket over my nose and press it there, like a mask. I need to believe that my father died praying and feeling peaceful, but did he? He lived with two of my brothers but they were off doing errands. So Dad was alone when he died and that is the hardest part to digest. This was a man who surrounded himself with family and friends – he would even grab one of us kids to ride with him whenever he had to run an errand in his red pickup truck. He died after falling on the laundry room floor, that was between his bedroom and his bathroom. I picture him alone on that linoleum floor, his weak heart unable to help him rise again. I wince in pain, as it is almost unbearable.
But there was a framed prayer on the wall above where my father lay dying. It was right above the spot where my brother found him an hour later. I like to think Dad could see that prayer and as his heart failed, he took it as a sign that it was his time to leave.
It was the Prayer of St. Francis and these are some of the parts that I remember:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon
And where there is doubt, faith…
For it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
It is in loving that we are loved,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”I have learned that after someone dies, Jewish people say, “May his memory be a blessing.” To me, this helps take the emphasis off wondering if he was at peace when he died or where he is now, or in what form. For what is eternal life, “To be happy forever in heaven with Jesus”? Maybe, or can eternal life be about the energy that the loved one leaves behind? A rainstorm is here to quench the thirst of a parched land. I am still feeling thirsty for peace when this scene pops into my head. I am age six, walking down the street, as Dad holds my little hand and I stride with confidence and joy. Reading this aloud, my voice cracks and the tears fall.
The rain shows no sign of stopping today.