February 19, 2011

The simplest gift on Dad's birthday

A friend of mine had an interesting Facebook status the other day. She questioned why our loved ones in heaven don’t give us a real sign, a slap-us-upside-the-head kind of sign, to let us know that everything’s going to be OK. Instead, we’re left with these subtle ‘maybe it’s a sign, maybe it’s really just gas’ kind of things that we struggle to interpret. I thought of that status message again this morning, because today Dad would have been 82.

Dad was never really big on religion - truth be told, he'd probably be wondering why I'm even talking about religion and his birthday in the same conversation. We went as a family, when my brothers and I were kids, to the local Methodist church. I don’t remember when or why we officially stopped going; I do remember attending long enough to get my own bible, but I can’t remember exactly how I did that, I think it was a combination of age and church school, not sure. Although my Mom continues to be very active in the same church, for some reason none of us kids maintained a connection, and neither did Dad. 

To this day, I struggle with prayer – I’m not sure how to go about it, or what words to use, or what to ask for, and in the end I feel so awkward in the process that I don’t do it much. I find a certain peace when I’m in a church, in the music and the architecture and the beauty of old stained glass windows. But I keep people ‘in my thoughts’ versus keeping them ‘in my prayers’ because thinking makes more sense to me, I guess, than faith. Knowing how much Dad loved traditional hymns, Handel’s Messiah, 'Simple Gifts' and the like, I suspect he’d agree. 

But while I struggle with religion, I understand the ‘show me a sign’ concept that my friend Diane was talking about. There are times when we just want to hear from those who’ve left us. We want to know that they’re still out there, watching over us, providing us the same love and guidance as they did when they were here. And that’s how I woke up this morning, thinking about Dad, comforted by those thoughts, and thinking about signs.

Am I doing OK, Dad? Am I on the right path? And am I missing signs that I should be seeing?  I sure hope I’m doing you proud – that’s both the simplest and the best birthday present I can give you. I also hope that if I’m not, you’ll send me one of those unmistakable signs (kind of like you did when I rode my bike into the charcoal grill) and put me back on track.

Happy Birthday!