50th Birthday. Best Gift I've Ever Received.

Glad Sad Lonely

When my dad died I don’t remember shedding many deep tears.  By deep tears, I mean those tears that feel like they start in your toes and seem to gather with them every part of your gut and your chest before eventually pouring themselves out like buckets of water falling from your eyes -- those kinds of tears.

When my dad died, I was sad.  But mostly sad for what never was and what I would never have. I only knew the absence of my dad, so in his death, I could only grieve the loss of a presence I never knew (and could only imagine).  I remember an odd feeling of relief when he died that there was a finality to the decades of pretending, excusing, hoping, imagining, longing, denying, and wishing. 

I’ve been to my share of funerals, and what I know is that you can’t stand there staring at a dead body forever, wishing life would once again animate what is now a lifeless shell that once carried around who they were.  You close the casket, lower it in the ground, cover it with six feet of dirt, and keep living.

That’s what happened when my dad died.  Except for me, his physical death merely marked the end of four decades of standing over a dead corpse wanting in vain for it to live.  My dad passed away when I was in my 40’s, but he mostly died when I was only three years old. 

I got letter from one of my kids for my 50th birthday (he shares about the writing of it in his blog:  http://jayschulte.blogspot.com/).  I wept uncontrollably when I read the letter he wrote to me.  Deep tears of gratefulness . . . as deep as I think I’ve ever cried.  

“My son will grieve when I'm gone,” I thought.  “Not the grief of what he never had . . . but a deep sadness that honors the loss of something very valuable that he HAD and from that day forward will miss . . . even as the gift that is our relationship stays with him long after I’m gone.”  

Nothing I've done in this life will be as eternally significant as the giving and sharing of my heart with my kids.  NOTHING.  I've known this in my head since becoming a dad 21 years ago.  But I knew it deep in my heart on the occasion of my 50th.