Where was that blasted number. I put it somewhere safe... It took about an hour. Toward the end of my search I decided I did in fact love my dad. I trusted my God with my heart and I figured He could work things out between the two of us. I decided to have no expectations and let our relationship be whatever it was going to be.
Finally the number! Now to find the phone... I dialed the number and my dad answered after the second ring sounding slightly out of breath. "Hi dad." I said casually. "Why did you call me?!" What a strange question. He repeated, "Why did you call? Why did you choose to call right now?" I was slightly taken aback. "I just felt like talking to you." We talked for a only a minute or two and he told me he'd call in a few days. What I didn't know was that in a room somewhere in Washington DC sat my father holding a gun. He had made his own decision. He had decided his life wasn't worth living. He held that gun and told God that he was checking out of this world and if God didn't want him to He'd need to let him know. He held that gun while I was looking for his number. He asked that question when I was dialing the phone.
My father, Dale Harold Woods, passed away last Thursday. He was 66. When I was little the Lord provided a "stand in" for my dad, my grandfather William James Johnstone. When my grandpa died he received my "daddy feelings" because he was a daddy in my life. When my own father was dying I didn't know exactly how to feel. What do you do when those feelings reserved for your daddy were used on someone else? I cried when I found out he was in hospice care. I mean I sobbed. I sobbed because I knew the man who'd always been bigger than life with his deep booming voice was small and frail who always reminded me of a mixture of Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman, who always had a dream to accomplish something great, who was still working out his own salvation...this man had wasted away to a mere skeleton of what he used to be. He was small and frail but hadn't lost any of his spirit. Why was I crying when I didn't really feel anything? It felt like any and all tears I'd been storing up regardless of the reason, were all deciding to come out at once. I prayed a prayer for the dying. I asked God to reveal to me if I had any anger, bitterness...anything I might have been holding against my dad so I could repent of it and offer my prayers with complete sincerity and love. The next morning I learned my father had died. I didn't cry, I had already used up my tears and chosen to embrace the will and grace of God.
I've thought about a lot of things since my daddy went away. I thought a little about what I didn't get to experience with him, but I thought more about how thankful I am that we at least had some sort of relationship. We didn't have what could have been, but we never do in any relationship. I got to hear his voice. I got to talk to him for weeks before his death. When he got remarried I received the gift of friendship from his wife and her three children, three new siblings I didn't know I needed, but who are part of me now. I had the opportunity to see him interact with his grandchildren a few years ago and I received healing by seeing how far the Lord had brought him. He was still very hard headed and stubborn, but he showed a real interest in his grandchildren and an appreciation for who they were as individuals. He freely gave them what he had in his heart (my brother does this whenever he visits as well...it is a gift he received from his father).
Life can be hard and seem very unfair. We don't always get what we hope for or desperately desire from human relationships. They can be very hurtful and confusing. My father had many issues before I was born, in my young childhood and throughout his life for many many reasons. He burned many bridges. But he always wanted to follow the One Who could rebuild bridges. Having children with trauma and attachment issues I have, I think, a better understanding of what my dad had to overcome to function at all. And while I don't feel an attachment to him as my daddy, I am thankful that he existed, that we communicated, that we kept trying and most of all that he kept striving.
Let us not live in bitterness but let us embrace love and through God's perfect love participate in forgiveness. God's love is big enough.
As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so, at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes. (St. John Climacus)