Thousands will spend this Father’s Day without their fathers. The vast majority will probably have mental images of the last moments spent with these men. For some such images are peaceful – perhaps an aged man resting in a casket after a life well-lived. Others will remember the back of a father as he walked out a door never to be seen again. As for me, I remember my father standing on an idling tractor in the middle of a dusty plowed-up field, my ears burning from the tongue lashing he was giving me. I was eight, and he had sternly forbidden me from walking out in the field when he was plowing. That night he died from a heart attack as he was driving home from my brother’s Junior Prom. And it was good.
Saying “it was good,” is one of the great mysteries of my life, and yet I know it to be true. My father’s death undoubtedly changed the course of my life. I lived places I wouldn’t have lived, did things I wouldn’t have done, made friends I wouldn’t have made. I married a man I wouldn’t have met and had children I wouldn’t have had. I can’t imagine my life without any of these things – especially my husband and children. Yes, I suppose I would have married someone else and might very well have had a great life. But that was not meant to be.
There is a Bible verse that says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) There is also an Irish saying that goes, “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.” I agree with the Bible, and to the Irish saying I add my own take, “If your mind IS a fertile field, its plowing just might produce a harvest.”
In my mind I’ve often returned to that field where I had that last meaningful interaction with my father. Standing among the dirt clods, feeling like a dirt clod, I was being trained not to do stupid stuff, e.g., chase after a tractor when the driver doesn’t know you’re there. And though I wish I hadn’t needed that reprimand, I am thankful that my father was the type of dad to give it. That’s the image I treasure.
The Bible says something else, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126:5) If you are sowing tears as Father’s Day approaches, I hope you will take heart, and I pray you will find joy.