Life Matters

Reminded of His presence

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Just then Jesus met them and said, “Good morning!” They came up, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him.

— Matthew 28:9

“Can you play another one?” I asked Lori.

We were driving, and she was sharing voice mails she had recovered from an old cell phone. 

I was surprised by voice of a friend who had recently died. He was a retired mechanic and had done some auto-repair work for me. 

“Your car is ready,” he said in his halted voice, damaged as it was from aphasia.

I smiled as I re-imaged that scene of him watching me drive away, glimpsing from my rear-view mirror that broadening grin of his as he admired what he had accomplished in healing my car of whatever aliment had afflicted it.

Lori obliged my request and found more messages. There were several from my mom reminding me that she hadn’t heard from me in several days. “Are you okay?” she would ask, a refrain in her messages, the crackling voice of a mom, now well into her ninth decade of life, still prone to worry about her boys and how they are doing.

“Her voice has gotten weaker so quickly,” I thought as I listened to voice mail not yet five years old. 

But the messages I asked to hear again and again were the ones from my dad.

Dad’s been gone almost six months now. And it seems like forever. And it seems like yesterday.

Some of his messages made me laugh. 

“Ok, David, no need to call back. I heard you calling but couldn’t find my phone. It was in my hip pocket!”

That message was repeated in various versions. Sometimes the missing phone would be on the kitchen cabinet or table, in his shirt pocket, or in the carrying bag on his mobie, or in his hand. 

On occasion, he would miss my Sunday morning call, which I always made to him early as I drove to church.

Missing my call on Sunday morning before I preached was disconcerting to him; in his thinking, he had let me down before I had gone onto the battlefield. One time, he said, “Sorry I didn’t get to talk to you before your sermon. Hope you gave’em heck.” 

I had to chuckle at the thought of a preacher “giving ‘em heck.”

More frequently, whenever he missed that Sunday morning call, he would say, “Don’t know how I missed your call, but Mom and I will be praying for you. Let us know how it goes.”

I miss calling my dad on Sunday morning. It’s like there’s an empty space in the passenger seat next to me as I drive, a vacancy that refuses to be occupied by any other passenger, reminding me of an enormous absence, for when I called Dad, he was here, riding along with me, next to me.

Not a Sunday goes by without me thinking, “Now would be a good time to talk to Dad. I wonder what he would say today?”

Most of the time I know.

This Sunday, being Easter, he would probably tease me, “Whatcha going to preach on today?”

It will be my first Easter Sunday without Dad.

“Remember how Pappy and Grandmother (Dad’s parents) would come over for Easter lunch?” I would invariably have reminded him.

“Oh yeah, I remember,” he would then say. “And grandmother would bring her chocolate cake. And we’d have ice cream.”

Dad loved festivities that involved food.

And I would join my family as my nieces and nephews would hunt the Easter eggs.

After lunch, Mom would insist on a family picture, and we would all complain as we arranged ourselves wherever she told us to sit, all of us too full from the feast to be comfortable.

I’ll miss calling Dad this Easter Sunday. 

“I just wish I could have told him in the living years,” Mike and the Mechanics sang about the absence of a father.

But I did tell him, although I wish I could one more time. 

And I’d wait for the sound of his voice, his words.

And I will, if that makes any difference to us then, there, in that Place.

Though it’s my first Easter without 

Dad…

…it’s his first Easter On the Other Side.

Hallelujah.

Christ is risen. 

This Easter morning, I’ll smile, for the One who told the disciples on that first Easter, “Good morning!” will travel with me to church this Sunday. 

And if he’s there, Dad can’t be too far away.

Contact David Whitlock, Ph.D., at drdavid@davidwhitlock.org. or visit his webpage, davidwhitlock.org.