Father's Day can be hard if your dad has died, but you can still celebrate his life.
My own father died right after Father's Day — a story that has taken some time to be able to tell but which you can read more about. While, in general, we do not think about the mortality of our parents, my father's death was particularly difficult for a number of reasons (not the least of which was that he was only 60 and had not been particularly sick). It took time for me to be at peace with myself since he drove hundreds of miles to celebrate Father's Day with me — and ended up having a heart attack.
It was a visit that I had been looking forward to and I had planned just the right things that he should enjoy. I never planned on his unexpected suffering and seeing his labored breaths. Then, I was alone in the hospital when decisions had to be made about his care. At that point, his death was still many days away, but I had my last conversation with my dad. Over the next days, my mom and sister would join me. In the end, we would make decisions together about the end of my dad's life. Inside, I was wrestling with guilt for having him drive out to see me, anger at systems that did not work the way they should and a tempering of it all from my professional background.
We each grieve in our own ways and in our own time. In my family, my mother and sister were worried about the fact that I did not cry a lot in public. While I was not in my role of chaplain or in my role as a pastoral counselor, my ways of handling things professionally were playing out as I dealt with this situation in my personal life. Perhaps this was reinforced by the fact that I am an introvert and did my best processing of my loss and grief when I was alone. What I have come to realize is that Father's Day is a day that highlights the honor I already give to my father throughout the year. It is not the only day to give honor. Rather, it is the day to bring that routine honor to the forefront. I have come to realize that there is a link between honoring my dad and honoring God as Father. Let me explain this with a couple of examples from my own life:
As we move towards Father's Day this year, organ transplantation is a big piece in the news, in part because the organs and tissues needed for life-giving purposes continues to be greater than the voluntary supply of these organs and tissues. There are many reasons behind this. My father, when he was alive, worked to raise awareness of this problem and spoke in many churches to get people to sign up to be organ and tissue donors. Unfortunately, the medical staff did not listen to us as a family when we talked about organ donation (and in reality, many of his organs may have been excluded based on what he faced at the end of his life) so my father was not an organ donor. But we were assertive as a family and were able to help many people through tissue donation (which follows a different timeline). We also designated memorial gifts to go to the organ procurement organization. Keep reading...
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