My father is dying. He is dying but he is happy. He will be 80 in October and he may make it that far, though we are not sure. He is in pain and he has been struggling for many years with breathing and chest pain as well as pain in his legs.
But I do not want to dwell on the pain. I think there are many women who think of their fathers as heroes. I know this is true for me. When I was little I wanted to be just like him and one would often find me following him about mimicking everything he did. He would sometimes mow the lawn without a shirt and I would follow behind him, shirtless as well, with my little plastic lawn mower. I would accompanyt him at the mirror while he shaved. He would give me some cream and I would smear it on my face and and "shave" it off with the cap from the shave cream can.
I was "home churched", I love telling people this because it is really exactly what happened in our family. We never went to church but we said grace, we celebrated all the holidays and we believed in Jesus. My father would read from the bible to us and I would always beg to for him to read the story of Noah. I loved the idea of someone saving not just humanity but also the animals.
Dad was a closet christian he never pushed his faith on anyone he simply believed. Dad's parents both passed away within a year of each other when he was only 10 years old. He had always believed that he would not make it as far as 79 and that he was living on borrowed time. But he did make it this far and he is still here. Though I believe that he had always felt that because his parents and his brother (who died in his late 50s I think) died so young, he thought that he was destined for the same fate and from the time he was fifty years on he seemed to be quieted by this. He did have some relatives that were very long lived and he now is one of them, but he didn't seem to have the ability to take this into account.
So he was and perhaps still is superstitious. A few years ago while I was moving closer and closer to atheism I was discussing religion with my Dad. He seemed to feel much the way I did at that time that God was a construct of man and that heaven probably did not exist. However, I am not sure how he feels today and I do not intend to bring that up to him at this juncture. He will go with the beliefs that he holds dearest in his heart and I believe that it is entirely possible that he would love to meet his parents again. He was only ten when they were both gone from his life. A very tender and impressionable age to lose not one but both parents. I know pretty much in my own heart that this is probably not going to happen but I can't help but feel a bit sad to think that this will not happen for him. Of course no one can say for sure exactly what happens after death, since no one has returned to give us a report. But maybe my father's brain can produce for him an image of his parents so that he will believe that he can once again fold himself into their arms just to ease his fear of passing on.
This is my wish for him. I know in my rational mind that this may not happen but I have heard of people being able to "see" their relatives as they pass into unconciousness.
I know that Dad would be upset to know that I am an atheist, he does not know this. I have only just come to terms with it in my own mind over the past year and during this year Dad, as well as my Mother, have been in failing health. I do not see the point in giving them this bit of news it will do nothing but distress them. I do not feel bad or like I am denying my true self by doing this, only that I am making a sort of peace with my family and respecting their views with regard to what happens after death.
My sisters all know how I feel and they are still on their own paths that will probably never lead to where I am but I am okay with this. I do not wish to "convert" them nor do I care very much to discuss my views with them, because I find it pointless and it creates hard feelings.
I chose to say goodbye to my father here with you all because you are all on the same page as I am and you are now a part of my family and very important part because you are the only ones who can understand how it feels, as an atheist, to lose a loved one knowing that you will never speak with them again. It is the hardest thing about atheism for me. It was a very tough thing to put away the beliefs because I was always told that we would all be together for ever and ever in eternity and now I know that this is most likely not going to happen.
It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one but I am happy for Dad because he says he is at peace and happy and that is what is the most important thing for me to hear. I know that he has led a very good and upright life. He was a hard worker and never balked from responsibility even once. He would work even when he did not feel like working. He would always be available to us at any time and was happy to discuss, at length sometimes, anything that was bothering us. He was very intuitive and helpful and he never made me feel inferior, in fact he always treated me as an equal. He would not talk down to me and he would never assume that he knew more even though all along he did know more.
I know I am making him sound like a saint and I am sorry to say it but he is. He really is truly a great man and it is a shame that he could not win that great man award because he does deserve it. He had four daughters and he never complained. He never fussed much nor did he ever lay a hand on us in anger. I never got a spanking from my father and for someone in my generation that is probably a rarity, though I am not sure.
Dad taught me many things, so many things I cannot list them all here and I think this is true for all of us who have been lucky enough to have had fathers who did take the time to coach our softball teams and to teach us to change the oil and tires on a car. Dad taught me never to be afraid of machinery and to take it apart if need be and try and repair it and to this day that is who I am in my own home. The one who fixes stuff, even the stuff on the cars. I am proud of this because it is something that my father taught me. He empowered me and as a woman that is very important to me.
Dad was also able to pull back when needed. He would never take my side just because I was his daughter. He would take into consideration the facts as well as my propensity for drama so he knew when to be critical and he knew when I was putting on the bullshit, even when I didn't.
He sounds great doesn't he? Well he is and I am proud to have known one of mankinds greatest most gentle souls to have ever lived. I am proud to know that while he may not pass on to eternal life he will have eternal life with me and my children. The torch will be passed on and hopefully one or both of my boys will have the same disposition as my father and when they have children they will be able to treat them with the same gentle guiding hand.
I love you and I will miss you Dad.