Let’s just get this out of the way from the very beginning: this summer marks the tenth anniversary of my father’s passing. There, I said it. No beating around the bush, no cleverly written prologue leading up to a surprise twist at the end of this week’s article.
I have a borderline-obsessive ability to remember the exact dates of significant life events with a fair amount of precision. Go on: ask me when Shanti and I first went out. October 18, 2000 (it was a Wednesday). High school graduation? June 21, 1988. The Lakers won the NBA championship on the same night. Olivia and Jacob’s first night with us at the house? February 1, 2010. Olivia had the cutest little snore (please don’t tell her I said that).
So with June 15 of this year quickly approaching, I could tell that it was going to be an emotional couple of weeks. That was the day that I received a phone call that my father was in the hospital; the beginning of the final months of his life. Ironically, I took that call on Father’s Day, 2003. I spent a lot of time at his bedside in various hospitals during the next several weeks. During the times that my dad was well enough to acknowledge my presence, we would engage in something that we never really did during the majority of my childhood: we talked. I mean, really talked. He told me things about his own childhood and his strained relationship with his own father. He talked about his experiences coming to the United States, always a source for hilarious culture-clash stories, and being married to my mother before they separated when I was about eight years old.
During those many visits together in June and July of that year, we didn’t really talk about the relationship between the two of us. That was never our thing. He did share a lot through a third party; he would often talk to my wife Shanti about feelings and regrets regarding our relationship or other things that I believe he wanted me to know, but was too uncomfortable to tell me face to face (and knew that Shanti would eventually tell me). But there was one time in one of those many hospital visits-this time I WISH I could remember the exact date-where he told me, in a very matter of fact voice, “I’m proud of you.” It came out unexpectedly, and was a bit of a non-sequitur from whatever conversation we were having immediately beforehand (it was probably about the newest film release or something else happening in the world). I didn’t get emotional about it at the time (like I am as I remember it now), but just said, “Thanks, Dad.” Only in retrospect did I recognize that they were words I had longed to hear after years of ups and downs in our complicated, often-strained journey together as father and son. It wasn’t the last time we talked, but it was certainly one of the most meaningful of my entire time with him.
I know I’m probably supposed to follow all of this up with some profound insight; some deep, spiritual truth that wraps up what would otherwise have been an illustrative narrative serving as a means to an end. But I can’t. All I can tell you is that part of who God created us to be includes being relational people, just as He is in relationship with us. Unfortunately, none of us carry or emote the full wisdom or goodness that defines God. So, our relationships with one another are often messy, broken, and complicated. But they are also precious, and on this earth, they are finite. Treasure the relationships you have with your loved ones, and even those whom you have trouble loving. Treasure every moment, and know that sometimes, you have to wait a very long time-perhaps just before the end-before you see what God is doing in you and in those you hold dear.
One more date to throw at you: August 15, 2012. It is the date that Shanti and I finalized the adoption of Olivia and Jacob into our family. It was only a month or two ago that I realized it was the same day of the year that my dad passed away in 2003. For someone who almost always remembers significant dates, I’m surprised that I didn’t pick up on that last year. But I’m now viewing it as more than coincidence. It might seem silly, but I think God gave us that date as a reminder that the Lord of amazing Grace still promises to turn our mourning into dancing, to help us move from a place of sorrow to a place of joy.
–Glenn R. Molina, Director of Worship Arts