My mother knew nothing about her real father. Even when her mother was brutally murdered by another man, she knew nothing about her real dad; believing her father to be a different man. When her real father revealed himself in her fifties, she was taken aback. A mutual friend apparently was having breakfast with her “dad” down at the local Hardy’s every Tuesday. When she confronted this man who she was told was her “real dad” she was understandably hurt and angry. She asked him, “When my mother was murdered, why didn’t you come to get me? I had no one!” He hung his head, “I was just a poor boxer.” He said, “I didn’t have nothin to offer.”
So why did he contact her then? After all these years, why did he have his breakfast friend reach out to her? Why now? As far as she could tell, it was so he could have a dance partner down at the local Moose Lodge. He was in his late eighties and a little senile, barely able to really comprehend who his relations were. I (her son) went to meet him for the first time and spoke to him about my wife and my kids. “These are your Great Granddaughters”, I told him, showing him a picture of the girls. He smiled and said they looked nice. He didn’t ask anything about me, my wife, or what his great-grandkids liked, or what type of kids they were. Really, there was no discussion about us at all. He either didn’t care or didn’t understand what was really going on.
His days were spent in meaningless pursuits that at his age seemed silly. After a year of knowing about him, all my mother had been a couple of one-sided visits and several uncomfortable phone calls asking her to come dance with him at the Moose Lodge.
Then, he got sick. Sick to the point that it was clear he was going to die. he didn’t ask for any of us. Mom went first to visit him and came away numb. She said, “You don’t have to go.” I went.
I went by myself. I entered the room and saw him lying on the bed, haggard. I ignored the three other people in the room; a friend, his current wife, and his son from another marriage (he never actually married my grandmother). He was unable to speak. Staring at the ceiling he just watched, as if he was expecting something to happen. I stood by the bed and held his hand for some time.
If I am being honest, I hated this so-called man, right or wrong I did. I hated that he wasn’t up to the task of being the father he was called to be. I hated it that he hadn’t stepped up! That he hadn’t ridden in on a white horse and rescued my mom from a childhood of horrors. I hated that in some part, I could see his failures in parts of myself that I abhor. With his hand still in mine, I struggled with what to say. Do you really talk about dying to a person who is facing it? It seemed almost cruel to talk about the encroaching line of eternity that I assumed he was more than aware of.
The pause I took seemed to last for a long time. In the end, I made a decision.
It was a decision that I didn’t care if he wanted to know me or my family. I didn’t care if he was a horrible person who had abandoned his child for the sake of convenience. I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted him to know us. We were worth knowing. However, he would never have the opportunity to do this during his lifetime. His life was over.
I gently squeezed his hand and began to pray over him out loud. “Dear God, my Grandfather doesn’t know you Lord, but I do. I ask you now to open his eyes dear God to Your truth. Help him Lord to ask for Your forgiveness and to believe that you save him even now. So that he might be with you in paradise God…”
After leading him through the sinner’s prayer, I ended it. He couldn’t speak of course. He couldn’t even write or even really smile. I have no idea if he accepted Christ, ignored me, or was even coherent enough to understand what was going on. I kissed his forehead and walked out of the hospital room. I sat in the car beside my wife and wept. I wept for his wasted life, what he had missed. All the amazing relationships and love he had missed out on. He had missed it all.
He was so focused on himself that he had missed the awesomeness God had placed right in front of him. Dear God, help me never miss the goodness you have given to me. Help me not to embrace the cowardice in my blood. Help me to grab life by the throat and wring out every good thing you so generously provide. Help me not to be afraid of living life for You, of being the father you have called me to be.
D. Michl Lowe