It’s my second Father’s Day without our child.
First off, let me say, Bless the name of the Lord.
And then, thank You, God, for the memory of my only son.
Which leads to: the ‘could have beens’ are still so hard to let go of.
I always felt our child would one day – eventually – shake the demons of addiction and land upright, untethered, healed, and whole. It wasn’t to be on this earth, but he’s found it in the Land beyond this globe, the estate of transcendent Love Himself. And there my son waits for us. Fully restored and, yes, safe.
Early on, a friend lamented, “I don’t want to be remembering Graham, I want to [still] be knowing him.”
Especially on days like today, that’d be pretty cool. I’d imagine us taking in a ballgame – him, typically interacting with his disabled dad unashamedly and eyeballing any he caught staring; ever protective, ever proud to be seen with me. Or carving into the biggest steaks together, quietly talking life stuff amid the melange of taste, aroma and good company.
Maybe he’d tell me about the sweet girl he thinks is the one. How she makes him feel like he’s better than he’s ever believed before. She knows his past, and doesn’t let him go there. She challenges him to rise above poor living and break free from his old life, reborn and new.
She’s just the cutest, Dad; and she’s strong! The girl doesn’t take nothing off me. I’m better when I’m around her. Oh! And you’ll like this Dad – I mean, if we end up together, which I hope we do – she wants to have four girls and a son some day – just like you wanted! Isn’t that awesome? Can you see yourself spoiling all those grandkids? I mean, if she’s the one – and’ll have me…which is what I hope happens…
Here’s where I cry.
And the questions: Lord, did it have to end like that? Was there some alternative ending we could’ve opted for with the mere click of a button?
What would his life have looked like…if he’d somehow overcome?
I know. The outcome is what it is, and I accept it with the comfort of knowing You always know what’s best, and joyfully knowing our precious boy is with You. He’s not relegated to some half-class citizenship as one who barely got in by the skin of his teeth, and Your having a last-minute change of mind. No, not that. Thank You, Father, for receiving him from this hard plane as a full-grown son of glory, a co-heir of Heaven’s King with all the beauties and privileges that go with that, no holds barred. It’s joy for us to imagine his tattooed skin now gleaming to high heavens and like all get out.
My buddy Tom will never know how his vision of ‘future Graham’ has been my go-to reminder when I catch myself in lament-mode. If anyone knows, Tom does; he himself cast soil on the casket of a son not too long before my own was put in the ground.
Tom saw Graham – which is remarkable, as he is also a disabled dad, his being blindness – running to his mom and me on that Future Day, with “skin gleaming white.” Such would be his stunning state now, he’d be someone, as Lewis observes in Weight Of Glory, “if [we] saw it now, [we] would be strongly tempted to worship.”
Now that’s a scene I can get excited about!
My son. In glory.
Still, I wish like anything we were flesh-on-flesh hanging with each other today talking about seeing the new Jurassic movie together, or taking him in the backyard and showing with pride my bird-feeder that actually does as advertised: it discourages squirrels and attracts the sweetest and most colorful of the bird kingdom.
I’d love to show him my new hobby. Dad, you’re into photography now? I never knew you were interested in cameras…
Then I’d trouble him to pose while I figure out some settings that would better catch the burst of late-afternoon sunlight leaking through the trees and settling on his left shoulder…
It’d be our kind of day. Quietly grand. Uneventfully memorable.
And somewhere in there, sometime before the old man retires and I leave my son in the living room to watch some TV on his own, not worrying he’s planning some hook-up with friends and drugs – but being assured he’s safe and utterly content – our conversation will invariably turn to the Gospel. And Graham would turn it there, not his preacher dad.
We’d talk at length about how watered-down it’s become, then he’d stun me with his insightful comments and queries (this isn’t dream-think, he often did this), and he’d listen to me and respect me and quote me and tell me I was his favorite preacher. And I’d be in heaven.
Not long after I’d gotten in my bedside apparatus that transports me from wheelchair to bed, he’d walk down the hall and peek his head in the doorway.
“Do you need anything Dad?”
“No thank you, Gra-Gra. I’m good. G’night, son. I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.”
Then, sometime before I drift off, I hear the television abruptly cut out and Graham shuffle on the hall tiles to his bedroom. And then, in the postscript of a perfect day, the greatest sound of all: the masterful playing of my son’s fingertips on the strings of his guitar. Melodies that would make angels bend close and lean in drift down the hallway and into my heart. I hold the sacred moment for a breathless moment, not wanting to release it, ever. Here is where I smile.
And here is where I cry.