“What are you thinking about?” [Jesus]
“Your father. How he never got to see any of this.” [Mary]
“My Father, which one?” [Jesus]
Mary chuckles. “You know what I mean.”
“I do miss him. But I’m glad you’re here.” [Jesus]
“I am proud of You.” [Mary]
“Maybe wait to say that until after I’m done. In case I mess up in front of such a big crowd.” [Jesus]
“Everything you say will be beautiful.” [Mary]
“It is pretty good, actually.” [Jesus]
“Master, it’s time.” [Simon]
Mary looks tenderly at her Son. “It’s time.”
Jesus leans in toward Mary until their foreheads meet. “If not now…”
On the way to the airport for my flight back to Denmark this season, Mom looked over at me and asked, “A penny for your thoughts?” Of course, I had made this trip many times, but this time, I felt especially quiet. This time seemed harder. Or at least I felt a stronger mix of emotions. My heart in a tug-of-war not only in two directions but many. Things were different. I was different. Going across the world to play football didn’t seem so important. My family was better but still somewhat reeling. Grandpa’s death was still fresh. Still in that stage where I had to remind myself, he was really gone.
I remember this after you died too, dad. Remember having to remember my dad was gone. Loss thrusts us into this twilight zone where the surroundings look the same, daily routines can go back to what they once were, but we cannot. I cannot be who I once was before you died. I cannot be who I once was before Grandpa died. Not in a bad way but just a different way. Maybe a discomforting way at first. Will people accept me still? Like me still? Desire my company and friendship still? What if I am too sad? What if I am a burden? What if I make them feel awkward? Can I live up to the expectations I built for myself? Expectations others have of me? What if I can’t?
Coming back to Denmark for the spring made all too fresh again going back to TCU after being at home for your funeral. I remember I wrote a note to our athletic trainer who had nurtured me much like a mother since I arrived on campus. I confided in her how I didn’t think I could be the person the coaches and the team needed or wanted me to be anymore. I didn’t have it in me any longer to be a leader they looked to to influence the group in the right ways and steer in the right direction. I didn’t even know how I was going to play again. Soccer was our thing, dad. How could it be still? How could it really matter without you? All those years you were on the sidelines I didn’t know I was playing for you. With you really. It wasn’t ever going to be the same now, so what would it be?
The answer came during one of our first spring games. It was the second half, and we were tied with a team we definitely should have been beating, but of course, it was spring, and a lot of the rust was coming off. I can still be there that day. A warm afternoon in the springtime of Texas when the air has a cool refreshing kiss, and the sun radiates over your skin ever so gently. The grass has a fresh cut. The other team is knocking the ball around their backline, but the presence of one of our forwards causes the centerback to look into the midfield. I catch her glance and know she is about to pass it to their defensive midfielder. She doesn’t see me a couple yards behind, so when the ball hits the midfielder’s foot, it’s over. I strip the ball off her foot and play our forward in on goal. She slots it home. 1-0.
The team celebrates on the pitch. That kind of celebration of joy with a subtle undertone of relief. Finally we scored! As I am running back into position on our half, our assistant coach Ryan shouts my nickname. “Larry, Larry!” I look over at him. He points to the sky.
This is what the game was going to be for me now. You would be there through beautiful reminders in all the people I was afraid of showing my wounded self to. I just had to give them the chance. Give you the chance to show yourself through them by letting them in. Not hiding in fear of their expectations or my own. Not resenting having to ask for help sometimes or thinking they would resent me for asking for help. Like I often did when you were sick dad and asked me for help. All people know what good-bye is. All of us have inside ourselves the experience of standing up and falling down again and again before we learn how to walk. I didn’t have to hide that I was learning to walk again after saying good-bye to my dad. Many hands were ready to help me stand up, for however long it took.
And one hand in particular promised to never let me go. My faithful Father.
Jesus knows His mother is thinking about Joseph, His earthly father, when He asks her in the dialogue above what she is thinking about. Maybe because I am a sucker for thoughts and treasure them dearly, but there is something so intimate to me about this question, “what are you thinking?” Or “a penny for your thoughts?” Jesus “puns” her a bit, not to make fun. He knows the pain she is feeling. Rather to alleviate her sorrow through a smile. He misses Joseph too. And He knows His heavenly Father is faithful and always present.
So. A penny for my thoughts this day 7 years after my father’s death? I do miss him. More now than ever it seems. Also more now than ever, I know the faithfulness of my heavenly Father. He sends loving reminders through the beautiful people surrounding me that my father is with me, and he is proud of me.
I love you dad,
Your missy babes