This past week my dad would have celebrated his 80th birthday if he were still alive. He passed away about 13 years ago.
I don’t approach his birthday or the anniversary of his death with the same emotions as I do my mom’s. Our relationship was not as close, those we did love each other. I wrote about him, his alcoholism, and his conversation late in life here partly as an encouragement to others who have prayed long years for lost loved ones. But even though he did become a genuine (as far as I could tell) believer and there were some evident changes, long years as an unbeliever and lack of means of spiritual growth prohibited a dramatic turn-around. I’ve ben surprised at the amount of anger, resentment, and disappointment I’ve experienced since his death. As I wrote previously:
I was surprised that I had a great deal of anger in the years after he died — anger that our relationship wasn’t what it could have been, and though I couldn’t talk to him about it, anger at his anger. I felt it was kind of silly, really, to be angry at that point when there was no way to reconcile anything with him. I have read, though, that those feelings are pretty normal. What helps is to know that now, in heaven, where hearts are made finally perfect, knowing what he knows now, everything is all right on his end and he would do things differently if he could.
And that’s the encouragement I want to leave with people today. I know people who have had horrible relationships with their parents, involving manipulation and twisted emotional abuse, made worse by the fact that these were professing believers. Making a profession doesn’t necessarily make one a believer, of course, if there was no faith and repentance behind the profession; however, many true believers are far from what they should be (see Lot and Jonah for examples). When those kinds of parents (or siblings or friends or whoever) pass away, instead of or along with some degree of relief there is an unsettledness that things were left unresolved and that there is no way to resolve them now.
But there, in heaven, where “the spirits of just men [are] made perfect,” their hearts are finally perfectly right, they can see things clearly, and they would apologize if they could, and we can look forward to a joyful reunion.
I can’t remember where I saw this video: I scrolled through recent posts of a few blogs I regularly read, but I couldn’t find it. But after Dr. John‘s recent passing, the anniversary of my father’s death, and this week the passing of my pastor’s wife’s sister-in-law, a woman I looked up to in school, this seemed particularly poignant. I had know for years that a song called “Going Home” had been made with the melody of the second movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, but I had never heard all the words before.