My friend Ann was driving through the cemetery in the blazing heat one summer afternoon and her heart was heavy with grief. Her father had died four months before and nothing could shake her of the sense of loss – until suddenly, there was an interruption.
I was not prepared for the phone call I received on May 26, 1994. It came from my mother, who was letting me know she was worried. “Joshua, I’m just calling because I want to remind you to be careful today. There was a teenage girl who was killed in a horrible car accident this morning.”
A few weeks after my first child was born, I told my dad off. At the heart of my complaints was one central failure: Ever since I was a kid, he had failed to show up.
Last autumn, my brother Caleb and I knew our father didn’t have much time left. He had been in the hospital intensive care unit three times in one year and although his mind was clear, his heart was failing. But he refused to admit it – and that presented a minor problem.
I have a brother and sister who died in a plane crash when they were 10 and 14 years old. Although I only have one memory of them, I definitely felt their absence growing up. I know my father did too.
I have a friend who will have an empty seat at his Thanksgiving table this year. That seat belonged to his father, who died recently. A few days ago, a doctor told another friend that his dad probably wouldn’t live to see Thanksgiving next year. I have yet another friend who was in a car accident and is in the hospital with serious injuries right now. He will be having Thanksgiving there.
I remember the night my parents split up. My older brother Caleb came into my bedroom and whispered that Mom and Dad were in the kitchen talking about divorce. We weren’t surprised.
“Gross.” That’s typically not the word I think of when contemplating a miracle Jesus performed, but there’s one exception.
I have this one childhood memory that used to haunt me. When I was in first grade, a careless adult did a great deal of damage with very little effort and it seemed like the hurt from that incident couldn’t be undone.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.