My memories of my dad are limited; he passed away when I was thirteen. Our family lived in Korea; however, my dad often worked away because his wage doubled overseas. It’s strange how memory works: I know he was a hard worker, and I remember his work jacket. I didn’t like that dirty dusty jacket; it made him look very weary. During my childhood it was very rare to have him at home. What I didn’t understand then was that work was his way of showing love for our family.
My main memory of my dad is that, he was always tired. I remember one time he was taking a nap; I saw him from a distance and was very worried. I actually checked to see if he was still breathing because I had never seen him rest before. He worked so hard to make a better living for us, and yet he was alone so much of the time. It was in the last year of his duty overseas that he died of a sudden heart attack, at age forty two. He was in Guam. My heart aches when I consider how lonely he must have been. One thing that helps is knowing that he was baptized in Korea just before he went. After his funeral, we learned that he gathered people in Guam to worship God together. My dad wasn’t alone after all!
I have often thought of my dad over the years. I remember my dad’s sun burned arm; how he wore sunglasses for work; how he brought crayons from overseas for my brothers and me; how his hair was grey. Although I remember these things, I feel sad because my memory holds no conversation. No “good-morning” greetings. No “good-nights”. No “I-love-yous”. No smiles. No nothing… I don’t even remember sharing a meal with him. However despite these voids, I was vaguely aware that: “He must love me because he is my dad…”
There is a significant time shortly after I married, long after he died, that brings me peace among the void. I painted a collage of myself as a child. I sorted and chose photos from my infancy and childhood. As I created this self portrait my mind reflected and my heart filled in the gaps. With each new picture, I noticed that I was happy: I had a happy childhood. I realized my dad was responsible for this. I also reflected on the photographer of those pictures, my dad. Again, it hit me with increasing strength thatlove captured those photos. Love, his hard work, provided the means for my happy childhood. This collage resolved the answer to my heart’s question: “Did Dad love me?” Working with those pictures I realized and embraced: “Dad loved me!” I was looking at, reflecting on, and painting the evidence of his love. For me!
The realization of my dad’s love turns my memories in another direction. I am aware of my Heavenly Father’s love as I stand and watch my son Elliot. At three there are other kids with him, but he enjoys his time alone exploring. I watch him from a distance, he is in my sight but I am not in his. As I remember this moment, I realize he was completely unaware of my joy in watching him experience and enjoy life.
Elliot is now twelve; from time to time I am reminded of that moment in the playground: watching him and smiling. With many “I-love-yous” from me, I wonder if he really knows how much I love him. I think about my Heavenly Father and how He watches me and smiles – evidence of His love for me. My Heavenly Father loves me!
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)
As a parent, I have better perspective of both my Heavenly Father and my dad. I think of them both often. Despite such limited memories of my dad, I know he loved me. When I see him again in Heaven he will not be wearing his company uniform; he will not be tired. I will see his smile, and I will (probably) be speechless. Most importantly, I want to give him a hug and say, “Thank you Dad, I love you too.” I have this reassurance of meeting my dad again because of my Heavenly Father’s love for us.