On remembrance days we are easily engulfed by a tidal wave of emotions, as often our grief is renewed and revisited, “Remember the days of old, consider the years long past” (Deuteronomy 32:7 NRSV). This is the anniversary date of my father’s death, and on this special day my thoughts inevitably turn again to both his life and his death.
I consider myself especially blessed to have had this man for my father. From the moment I was born it was love at first sight, a kind of spontaneous bonding. And through the years we shared a very special relationship - we were friends, confidants, business associates, and trustworthy allies in a complex, often fractured family dynamic. My father was my rock. I was his rock. I loved him. He loved me.
On remembrance days our thoughts meander through the days and years of history shared with our loved one. We seek clarity or perhaps some unmined tidbit of insight or wisdom that in some way helps to illuminate our own life. And if we’ve enjoyed a beneficial relationship, we cherish the best, lasting impressions of our loved one.
I don’t know particularly why it occurred to me, but I remember that during my childhood, my father carried a pocket watch. It wasn’t a family heirloom with great sentimental value but perhaps it was a reminder of something or someone he held dear. I remember the watch - it was thin and modern, about the size of a half dollar - but more than that his ritual as he slid the watch in and out of a small pocket sewn into the waistband of his trousers with a deft, authoritative gesture uniquely his own. He enjoyed this small flourish of ceremony, a kind of silent affirmation that life was important, especially at that very moment. Only years later did he switch to a wrist watch.
The greatest gift of my father’s spirit to me was his unconditional love. He taught by example the love of God. He was a good and godly man. I like to describe my father’s love as constancy, the “thick and thin” kind of love with staying power - the love that always cares, always disciplines, always protects, always instructs, always nurtures. The unconditional, constant love that forms and shapes and transforms our lives forever.
On remembrance days often we struggle to reconcile a past that can never be changed. Our greatest power lies in forgetting and letting go. The reality of life is that not everyone has a loving father, a loving mother, a loving spouse, or the structure of an intact, functional nuclear family. Really, few people do. So, part of the work of remembrance days is extracting the better part of love or memory or heritage, and letting go of that which has scarred us or hurt us or perhaps even made our life miserable for a while.
On remembrance days we claim the victory of life in moments of honest reflection, prayer, and quiet introspection. As we assess our own lives, we determine whether we are better for having known and loved the one we now grieve, or if our life is a triumph despite our relationship with the one now lost to us in death. Life reconsidered, life in perspective, life larger than the sum of all its parts. We remember, we let go. We remember, we forget. We remember, we cherish. We remember, we grieve.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow…
Psalm 146:8-9 NIV
Keep me this day, O God, in the constancy of your love.