[Note: I wasn't going to post "Letter to My Father" publicly because it was written specifically for friends and family gathered for Dad's memorial celebration. But after reading it again this morning, I thought this excerpt might be helpful. TAT]
Out here on the porch at Smith River, light is falling and the cool evening air is seeping down around my neck and creeping inside my collar. When the wind kicks up like this, I feel a little lonely. My world is a lonelier place without you. I guess that’s true for most of the people who will be gathering. We all carry a special piece of you inside of us, and we are going to gather and share our pieces, and they’ll fit together like a jigsaw puzzle that is a picture of your life. It won’t really be your life—that was a unique and complex thing. But we can share our pieces and do the best we can to hold a space for you against the loneliness.
Dad, we understand there are parts that we can never know. Oh man, you should have seen me these past few weeks rebuilding the box on that old utility trailer you gave me. Nope, I will never be you. It’s pretty rough in spots. But like my brother says, that’s why God made side grinders and caulking. And I will repack those wheel bearings this time. I promised. A long time ago you showed me how to do that, how take a wad of new grease in the palm of my hand and push the bearing housing down into it until the new grease forces the old stuff out. Anyway, part of my loss is knowing that we can never know all the things you took when you left. But I say this. Peace. Peace be with all of us. Because we will never know the fullness of someone else's life. We will never truly understand that unique and irreplaceable burst of energy in the Universe. That’s the way it should be.
Still, you left a lot behind. And for those things that we can hang onto, I’m grateful in the most fundamental sense, grateful literally beyond words. Your life was a gift, a gift to all of us that we can never really repay. Now you’ve gone on ahead, just like you always did, and we can only accept your gift with grace.
Dad, night is closing quickly now, and it’s getting too dark to write. I need to wrap this one up.
Listen, no more shortcuts, okay?
We love you, Dad.