For the Love of Jack
[In memory of my Dad, Jackie, who was born into heaven on October 5, 2013. This dialogue with God was written February 7, 2017 during a Cultivate Words workshop. Cultivate is about process over product, so I share this with you in all its grammatically flawed glory...adjectives included!]
I can see him on the reservoir with his hand to the motor, master of the ship, slipping across the clear mountain lake. I’m not a fisherman myself, so I could only imagine what it felt like to bob and glide across the weight of all that water. With his flat-brimmed cap securely in place, toking Sir Walter Raleigh through his pipe, he would float upon the water for hours, waiting, and thinking, and searching. Did he know then that Sir Walter was out to get him?
My Dad loved the majesty of the San Juan Mountains and for 30 years made a pilgrimage. Of all the places on earth, I believe it was there that Dad found God; the boat was his confessional, the alpine meadow his pew, the towering landscape his church, and the sky his stained glass window.
I remember sitting there hidden among the high meadow grass, enjoying their wild colors and their whispering sounds. I could imagine Dad pouring out his heart to those fields, and I wondered if I became still enough, and listened long enough, would I hear his voice?
In life, it was hard for me to hear Dad. He wanted to linger while I wanted to flutter. He wanted to share his story, but I wanted to write my own. He could focus on people, yet I was so easily distracted. Now, I wish I had shared more of those 30 year pilgrimages with him.
The tar infested conquest of Sir Walter was cruel, but effective. As the battle for his bones and his breath ensued, the compulsion to get back to his sanctuary only increased.
We carried him there gently, one last time, in a parade of children and campers. We placed a guard over those bones and that breath, and we lingered for as long as we could.
One day we walked to Dad’s church to check out his holy place for ourselves. He pointed the way up, but his strength held him down. Six miles up and above the tree line we went, on a glorious Colorado day, sharing the struggle with our own children through laughter and labored breathing. We surveyed Dad’s sanctuary from its highest point to which my own child proclaimed:
“Majestic. I understand it now.”
And then, on the six miles down, I heard You speak. Your voice came up from the reservoir with force among the trees. The shimmering shake of the Aspen leaves stopped me in my tracks and stole my voice. I felt the weight of You in my chest as my legs quivered with effort. The sound of Your voice resonated inside my whole body, yet You did not speak with words. You spoke with Presence.
I knew then that I was on holy ground, I was on Dad’s holy ground. Suddenly, I knew that You had been with him all along and that your attention to him was secure. All the years of his life, You had followed him to every mountain and through every valley. There wasn’t any place You wouldn’t go to look for Your Jackie, because You loved him so much.
Your Presence spoke tenderly to me that day, yet I wonder if there wasn’t just a hint of joyful celebration to Your tone. I mean, after all, Your Jackie was on his way home.