A father’s love is demonstrated in so many different ways: Throwing a baseball after a long day of work, reading one more bedtime story, handing over the keys to the family car and helping that young person become an independent, happy and productive person as they transition into adulthood.
How then does a father demonstrate his love for his dying child? Luke was 28 years old, tall, dark complexioned and very handsome. He was in his last semester of law school when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was dying at a fast rate.
Roles were now reversed. Years of dad teaching his son about preparing for life, Luke was now preparing his dad for his dying. The agony of death is more than just physical – it is an existential wound that gnaws away until there is slow, and frequently unwilling, acceptance of the inevitability of one’s mortality.
Ah, fathers, they wait so long before they let down their guard with their sons. When they do the power and poignancy of it is overwhelming. Luke’s dad was overwhelmed with the emotions as his son declined. He often did not have the words to express his love and devotion. And, he was not able to DO anything, consequently he felt at a loss.
Luke laid bedbound and his dad remained at his side. He was ready to spring into action if Luke requested anything. Luke was too tired to request anything, so they lay in bed together, watched baseball and simply hung out until Luke needed to be repositioned, given pain meds or have his briefs changed.
Dad made it a point with every action to say, “I love you,” or “Do you remember the time we…” These brief and touching comments were Dad’s final expressions of love for Luke and demonstrated the power of fatherhood – he was helping his child prepare for the next transition, death.
To all the dads out there who make a difference in every interaction, Happy Father’s Day!