Deep Knowing

“The inner life of any great thing will be incomprehensible to me until I develop and deepen an inner life of my own.” – Parker J. Palmer

I was standing in the crowded reception hall after my father’s funeral service greeting people, feeling the comfort of the huge tide of love for my dear father carry me through the ache of missing him when one of his close friends came up and whispered in my ear. She said, “You were his favorite.” I wanted to turn and joke with her that she said that to all the kids but the truth of it choked off any chance of reply. It was something that I knew way down deep but never would have said, something that I wanted so badly to be true because I loved him so, and something I needed to hear to affirm that bond I felt with him.

On the morning of November 7th, 2014 my 79-year-old father spent an hour or two reading in the sunshine on the back patio of the home he and my mom owned in Tucson, Arizona. He had just accepted a position as president of the board of an organization serving people in the Middle East and was planning out the next meeting while my mom was out playing golf. He must have felt the need to get some exercise so he placed his open book face down on the chair, put on his helmet, hopped on his bike and started riding the route that they often took through their quiet community. He’d gone three blocks when he hit a car coming through an intersection, suffered blunt trauma to his neck and died within a minute.

A year-and-a-half before he died, I was out walking my dog on a bright Seattle spring morning and the song Circle of Life from the Lion King came into my head. My eyes filled with tears as I knew my beloved father was going to die. It wasn’t an urgent feeling but just a recognition of the eventuality and an insistence on talking with him and writing about his life and faith. It was absurd on the face of it. I was too new in my spiritual path to relate to his, I wasn’t a writer and I’d heard his stories all my life. But the voice was clear that I listen. So I did. Over the next 18 months, I sat down and recorded conversations with my father.

So when my dad died that Friday morning, I was in the best place possible, if that can be true about a death. I’d said “good-bye” to my parents the week before when we’d met for breakfast in Seattle before they drove down to Tucson. That morning, my dad looked at me and said, “You look great.” Which I’d understood had nothing to do with my outward appearance but everything to do with the twinkle that was back in my eye. I had survived divorce, found myself and God on a meditation mat and spent that precious time listening to him. We’d spent so much intentional time together that there was a special closeness we’d developed on top of our father-daughter bond. There wasn’t anything that was left unsaid between us. I loved him and he loved me and saying it 1,000 more times wouldn’t make losing him any easier, I’d always want more.

My dad’s death made me know, really know, that the insistent voice, the voice I think of as the God voice, is a trusted Guide. As a Presbyterian pastor for 40 years, I know my dad led many people in faith. But I’d like to think that my spiritual awakening was his most proud accomplishment. Actually, that’s false modesty because I know it was just as I know I was his favorite. He bore witness to a life well-lived because of the deep joy, rich meaning and complete reassurance of a strong faith. Faith that carries us through the tough moments, seasons and challenges. Faith that leads us to do what we need to do. And I heard him and that carries me through the tough moments of losing him which is exactly what he wanted for me, for all of us.

It makes me ache for my brother and sister that they didn’t get the chance to talk to him the way that I did. And it makes me wonder about how God could provide for me so well but not them. But I’ve come to understand that we all got exactly what we needed. My spiritual path led me to be able to have those substantive conversations about faith before he died. It didn’t matter that my dad saw God through the lens as a Presbyterian and I see God through my Buddhist-Christian-meditative lens, we talked about what was crucial to a meaningful life. My siblings have a different experience of faith, life and my father that I believe has left them with an open question that they have an opportunity to solve. Whether or not they do so is their path.

I haven’t told anyone the secret my dad’s friend shared with me at his funeral until this post. As the youngest child in the family, my siblings never listen to me so I think it’s safe to assume they won’t read this and the secret is still safe. Being my dad’s favorite means honoring him with my life and maybe one day my siblings or my children will come to me wanting to know what I learned. And I’ll pass it on.

So, dear reader, I ask you: Is there anything your voice is telling you that you haven’t listened to yet?


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