My Father’s Wonderful World
Sunday is Father’s Day. I will listen to my father’s favorite song, the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.” Each Father’s Day since he died in 2001, I listen to that song, laugh and shed more than a few tears. As the years go by, its words and insights have opened in their simplicity and wisdom.
My father understood that the words of that song spoke to the things that really matter — once everything that pretends to matter in life is stripped away. As his life unfolded in those later years, when his congestive heart failure seemed to take its greatest toll, he loved the song even more.
The Loss Has Not Dissipated
As the years have passed, my sense of loss has not dissipated. It has only changed. As I so often tell grieving family members at funerals in my ministry as a Catholic deacon, the pain of loss on the memory of our deceased loved ones is just another manifestation of the eternal nature of love.
My father grew in tenderness and compassion as he faced death. It is funny how difficulties and struggle, suffering and strife, seem to be the most effective means of refining us all. He finally died of the heart ailment which had claimed so much of his vigor for many years.
However, like with every struggle my father faced, he did not give up. He was a fighter and he did not want to go. In fact, I was at his death bed a couple of times, or so we thought. He decided he had more jokes to tell and more love to give.
It was that fighting spirit I have especially grown to admire as the years have passed by. Thank God he passed it on to me. Oh, as a younger man, he perhaps fought some of the wrong battles. I know I certainly did. We all do. But that does not really matter any longer.
Life seems to smooth it all out, and time presses us into deeper love. I see now that it only gave him time to smooth off the rough edges of a hard life and to simplify. And, so it is doing with me, his son. I hope he is proud.
Time the Tutor
How my father loved to hear from us as he grew older. Sadly, in retrospect, I regret just how little I called him. How I would love to have just one of those conversations today. I still miss him. I think back on those final years and I still have regrets.
Though we can’t get those years back, time is meant to become a tutor as its highway stretches out before us. The lessons abound, if we have the eyes to see them and the heart to receive them. The memories of the time I did have with my father take on new meaning as I walk along the path that he did, trying to love in both word and deed.
Now, at sixty-three, I remember him in his fifties and his sixties. I cherish the last times we had. I share with my own grown children, and grandchildren, his stories and his humor. In fact, in what is a common experience, I tell his jokes and use his expressions, both facial and verbal.
In so many respects, I have become just like him. When I was in my twenties, it was one of my greatest fears. Now it has become one of my greatest honors.