Loss of someone you love is just so hard. One minute you are making breakfast together, and the next, you are sqeezing the hand you held when yours was little … for the very last time.
As many of you know, the discovery that my dad had cancer this summer was a surprise to all of us, including him. And the blessing is that the suffering part was not very long. In fact, even after we brought him home under Hospice care, we were able to watch him love us and the world around him, like he always had.
We have a dear friend, Hong, who now lives in California, who, like us, calls our parents, Mom and Dad. Through our church in Midland, Hong arrived on our parents’ doorstep from Cambodia in 1979, and has been a part of our family ever since.
The day after Dad died, Hong was visiting with my mom on the phone, and she was writing his wise words on a notepad. When she shared her notes with me, I noticed one particular entry, and I said, “Mom, Dad did this. He knew!”
The note said: “Enjoy a favorite beverage and watch the scenery change.”
My dad was a judge. When he was not considering a decision on the bench, he loved to hunt and fish, and work quietly outside. He loved the outdoors, whether it was our dusty old pig farm in West Texas, or the lush piney woods of East Texas.
During his last few days, we were lucky enough to have Dad in our home next to a window looking out over the beautiful Texas hill country. Every now and then, he would wake and marvel at the number of different greens the leaves displayed. He pointed out trees he recognized … redbud … mountain laurel … pecan. He was in awe of the way they all flickered and danced in the wind. And, for the first time, I turned and stopped to see … to really see … the trees, and the flowers, and all of the scenery. I saw the world around us that I had taken for granted as the background of our daily lives.
My favorite tree lesson was about a crepe myrtle. I told Dad that it had almost died, until we discovered that a deer had been using the trunk as an antler sharpener. Dad told me all about the way a buck rubs off his velvet and why … and if you are a hunter, I’m a little embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know a buck wore velvet. But now I do. Every time I look at our lavender crepe myrtle, I know I will remember my dad gently teaching me another lesson.
During those sweet last days that Dad was with us, his first great-grandbaby was able to come to visit from North Carolina. After lunch one day, our girls sent me outside to swing on the hammock with our little 14-month old fella. And what do you think he saw? He pointed out the flickering colors of the leaves blowing in the wind over there … and there … and there! He knew, too. We are surrounded with wonder and beauty every single day, and often it is as tiny as a leaf or the hand of a child.
As time with my father grew to a close, we continued the soft thoughtful conversations about the changing scenery as long as we could. I will cherish those moments. These days, I often walk to that same window and look at the trees. Just flickering.
So now as fall approaches and the trees are showing off their splendid new colors, I hope that you will be able to … as I plan to do more often … enjoy a favorite beverage and watch the scenery change.
Happy autumn, Cathy
P.S. The photo above was taken one month later. I like to think that Dad was sending us a little reminder!