When I read the purpose of Koinonia, I was inspired, and I thought, “As soon as I learn a new lesson from my book, I’ll have plenty to write.” For if I was to write something for this magazine, particularly, it would need to glorify God.
I don’t have anything new to write, but I do want to tell you a story. It is a story from which I ran and hid for years — twenty-eight years, to be exact.
My father suddenly passed when I was in my teens. It was too vast of an event for me to deal with at the time, so I tried to move on as if it never happened.
But the body doesn’t forget.
Twenty-eight years later, I visited a counselor for my struggles with depression. She told me something I had never heard before. She said, “Your dad was your true North.” She gave me homework — it was to write about my dad.
How could I write about my father? I had lost his essence!
Shortly after my prayer, I ran into an older cousin who rarely crossed my path. With no knowledge of my plight, he cornered me in an awkward story-telling moment about how my Uncle Pat (a Baptist minister) wasted no time in asking anyone (including strangers) if they would be ready if the Lord would call them home.
He made a point to share my father’s reaction to the question. They were fishing. These words seized me.
“Death? I look at death…as a promotion!”
That night, by God’s beautiful, mysterious grace, my heart opened for the first time in twenty-eight years. I remembered my dad. Eager to hold onto these overwhelming thoughts, I walked outside with an old notebook and an old pen. Then, all at once, my hand just started moving, mechanically, spontaneously, with my worn-out pen.
And, as the ink spilled, I gradually…began…to breathe again.
He was and is the original of originals —
He could make mud smile!
When he walked outside, the flowers perked up
and the weeping willows started dancing.
The gravel beneath his feet rubbed together in unison, creating a song.
The branches of the giant oak tree awoke as if to not miss their first morning meal, anticipating a delightful sweetness.
Even the cow patties told jokes!
The barbed wire fence knew a secret, creating electric currents of joy.
The floor felt more grounded because his feet landed there.
It was safe;
there was balance.
Mud was a delightful chocolate surprise.
Even his truck absorbed his presence.
The steering wheel was in good hands because it was being guided by a loving, strong warmth — a gleeful force.
Persimmons became sweet,
and then chortled and fomented laughter and laughter and laughter… creating incessant currents.
Flowers — dead?
They’re just pulling your leg.
They can disguise themselves as they like for your pleasure;
they love playing jokes on you.
The house was happy.
The yard was rich and full.
The recreation room, the pool table…
The man in the picture grinned every night as he posed for Dad’s amusement.
There was laughter, laughter, LOUD, WONDERFUL LAUGHTER…
The sky laughed.
The stars laughed.
The moon laughed.
The sun scorched our skin — then it laughed with us.
It was a wonderful life, a wonderful existence —
Who knew the universe had learned so many songs?
I pray You will make me into a beautiful song that will bring the essence of my father back to life.
Because this world needs more of Bill Childress.
This world has not even begun to stop needing Bill Childress.
This world STOPPED BREATHING when he left it.
Its secrets were gone.
The players got tired.
The dancing stopped;
their feet were sore.
Green lost its luster.
Blue became gray.
The brown shut down.
The stars became luminaries that dimmed and left their shells.
Smiles became fake.
Laughter was dead.
Flowers became plastic —
Water stopped moving.
Laughter was a distant memory, as if never experienced, never touched…
The earth doesn’t spin on its axis anymore!
As my pen recounted my innermost secrets that night, my heart resonated with Anne Lamott’s words in her Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith:
The depth of the feeling continued to surprise and threaten me, but each time it hit again and I bore it, I would discover that it hadn’t washed me away.
That was what writing about my dad was like.
This is a mere snapshot of grief. Immeasurable joy comes from knowing that this is not the end of his story. He loved his Savior, and for this reason, I just know that the creation can’t wait to dance with Daddy again!
For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18–19, ESV)
This story is published in Koinonia — stories by Christians to encourage, entertain, and empower you in your faith, food, fitness, family, and fun.