A Father Story

When I got home from church today, I found my package among a pile of Amazon deliveries lying haphazardly near the mailbox. It seems as though everyone in my building had received a package today. Perhaps some were last-minute Father’s Day gifts.

My package contained a jar of silver polish and two bottles of my favorite dish soap. I hadn’t run out, but for some reason I’d added them to the cart while ordering the polish. I love worshipping the Lord while doing dishes so don’t like running out of dish soap, especially since the Target and Ralphs near me stopped stocking this brand during the lockdown. I don’t know why. It’s not like it’s toilet paper.

After putting away the dish soap and giving my silver teapot a quick polish (and discovering that the polish only works on the top half of the teapot), I sat down with my phone. Once again, the Facebook algorithms had been kind enough to notify me of my memories. Today they were reminding me of this post from 2017.

The Father Story I mentioned in that post began in the cleaning supplies aisle at my local Walmart. I was reaching for a bottle of my favorite dish soap when I overheard a woman speaking with her father over the phone. Since it was not a personal conversation (or she wouldn’t have had it in Walmart), I didn’t feel bad about eavesdropping. But I was only half-listening, so I couldn’t repeat what I overheard if I wanted to. (And my memory isn’t what it used to be, as the Facebook algorithms know only too well.)

After the lady had said goodbye to her dad and hung up, I turned to face her. “You’re lucky you can talk to your father,” I said.

She understood what that meant and uttered a sympathetic “Awww,” with a tender expression to match. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “But you know he’ll always be in your heart.”

I nodded and smiled my thanks. She walked away with a friendly wave, and I turned back to the dish soap shelf. But I didn’t touch anything for a long time. I just stood there remembering a moment from the day my father died.

Papa died as the sun was setting in India on December 8, 2009. Here in Los Angeles, it was a little past 3 a.m. when Mummy called with the news, and I was still weeping when the sun rose a few hours later.

I hugged my pillow as I wept, but at one point I felt prompted to look for a picture of Papa that I could hold to my heart as I mourned his passing. Asking God to help me pick the right one, I delved into my photo box, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at the photo He led me to.

It is a picture of Papa and I on my wedding day. We are standing on the porch outside the church — I in my white dress, he in a grey suit. My left hand is on his arm, and I am holding a bouquet of yellow roses in my right. As we wait for the familiar opening bars of “Here Comes the Bride,” I am savoring what I think are my last moments as Sharon Edwards. Little do I know that three painful years later on the other side of the world, I will be taking my maiden name again. But for now, standing on the threshold of the old stone church, I am clinging to the man who gave me his name and his love for literature, and who will give me, in our final earthly conversation, the legacy of his faith.

The moment I knew this was the photo, I extracted it from the album and held it to my chest. As I leaned against the console in my living room and wept, the chorus of the Tarzan movie theme song, “You’ll Be In My Heart,” filled my thoughts. The music wasn’t playing, but I could literally hear Phil Collins singing these lines:

When the lady in Walmart said “He’ll always be in your heart,” I was transported right back to the day my father died. My body may have been next to the dish soap shelf, but my heart and mind were back in the moment when my deepest sorrow had met the deepest comfort there is in this universe. And today, on my first Father’s Day without either parent, a well-timed Amazon delivery and Facebook memory led me gently back to that same moment and that same Source.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

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