Since my dad died in December, I’ve obsessed over a few details of his life and our relationship.
As my siblings and I gathered around my Dad in his last hours, Dad, seemingly unconscious, gave us very little indication of any awareness he might have had. And as we all loved on him, watching his breathing become more and more labored, we knew there was really nothing we could do to help him in his journey back to his Heavenly Father. It was agonizing to me to be in the midst of such an important event but unable to DO anything except watch and wait, watch and wait for something none of us wanted to happen but we all knew must happen. In that place of intense awkwardness, I remembered a friend who told the story of singing hymns with his family as his mother slipped into eternity. So my siblings and I sang. We sang a few hymns and carols without any real response from my Dad, and then my sister suggested songs from our childhood that my Dad had sung for us. As we sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and “This Little Light of Mine,” We saw one tear for each song gather in my Dad’s eyes. He heard, and somehow, somewhere, he was singing in spirit with us.
What I have been obsessing on is, Why the tear? My father’s family was not religious, so it’s unlikely those songs took him back to his own childhood. What about us singing those songs touched my father, who was so far gone from us already that he could not squeeze my hand or open his eyes when I spoke? Was it that we brought our relationships with him full circle, from our cradle to his grave? Was it that those songs touched his heart where religion is absent and true faith lives? Was it that we were singing terribly off-key and he just wanted us to stop? :0 What was it? Why the tears?
I’ve settled on an answer. I think in that moment when we surrounded him with those songs he had sung to us as children, Dad got that assurance that it mattered. All he did for us, all he taught us, all he invested in us mattered. Because when we were all lost in our grief with nothing left to do, nothing left to say, we remembered and played back for him what he had planted in us so many years ago.
In these days when rebellion and indifference is the norm for many teenagers and young adults in their relationships with their parents, it is easy to wonder if all that we invest in our children matters. When push comes to shove, did those songs, those prayers, those sacrifices matter?
My Dad would tell you they did matter, they do matter.
It all matters.