The Long Goodbye   1 comment

World's Greatest Dad

Above:  An Item I Gave My Father Many Years Ago Yet Have Repatriated As a Memento

Photograph Dated December 27, 2013 Common Era

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


As parents have compassion on their children:

so do you, Lord, have compassion on those who fear you.

For you know what we are made of:

you remember that we are but dust.

–Psalm 103:13-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


A dear friend of mine in Athens, Georgia, told me recently of her father, who had Alzheimer’s Disease at the end of his life.  She said that the father she had known died ten years before his body expired.

I think of that now, as I realize, with the benefit of hindsight, that my father began to slip away, piece by piece, in the middle 1990s.  The first wheel came off the proverbial cart circa 2000.  His forced (partial) retirement from the South Georgia Conference, The United Methodist Church, came in June 2006.  The forced (full) retirement followed less than five years later.  My father’s physical and intellectual decline accelerated after that.  The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease confirmed what some of us suspected.

I will not lie; I had a somewhat difficult relationship with my father at times.  He had his issues as much as I had mine.  Misunderstandings and bad chemistry are the stuff of many human relationships, unfortunately.  I am not attempting to assign blame, either.  No, I seek only to understand objectively and correctly what happened and why.  One cannot move on from the past well and deal with it properly if one sweeps it under the proverbial rug.  So I declare that both us were responsible and forgive both my father and myself for misunderstanding each other and acting accordingly.

Each of us is a mixture of the positive and the negative.  My father’s positive aspects outweighed the negative ones.  Indeed, I owe many of my favorite aspects of myself at least partially to his influence:  my excellent taste in music, my deep interest in theology, my fascination with Presbyterian Church history, et cetera.  I am grateful that my parents encouraged my sister and I to think for ourselves.  They raised us to ask questions, something central to my theological method.  And they responded well as I changed from a good Methodist boy into an Episcopalian one with strong Roman Catholic influences, including an affinity for Mary.

I have been watching my father’s decline for years.  For slightly more than eight years I have noticed it during visits to southern Georgia, U.S.A., from my home in Athens-Clarke County-Georgia.  Last Thanksgiving proved to be an especially alarming time.  Two weeks ago today my father left the ministerial cottage on the grounds of Magnolia Manor, Americus, Georgia, for the last time.  Now he resides just a very short walk away, in the rehabilitation wing of the nursing home.  I visited my father there and noticed with dismay the gaping holes in his memory, even from a few minutes prior.  Two days ago, when I told him goodbye until the Spring Break visit, I wondered if he would recognize me again.  It is a valid question, for he has begun to forget faces, even ones he sees every day.

My father–the one I knew–is dead, even though the body continues to function on its own.  Thus I have begun to grieve his passing.  That part of him which neurons and memories comprise is breaking down rapidly.  Somewhere there remains an intangible part of my father.  I will meet him again someday on the other side of this veil of grief and suffering.

In paradisum deducant te angeli:

In tuo adventu suscipiat te martyres,

et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem.

May the angels lead you into paradise;

may the martyrs receive you

and lead you into the holy city of Jerusalem.

Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,

et cum Lazaro quondam paupere

aeternam habeas requiem.

May the choir of angels receive you

and, with Lazarus, who was once poor,

may you enjoy eternal rest.

Ego sum resurrectio et vita:

qui credit in me, etiam si mortuus fuerit, vivet:

et omnis qui vivet et credit in me,

non morietur in aeternam.

I am the resurrection and life.

He who believes in me, even though he is dead, shall live;

and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

The Gregorian Missal for Sundays (Solesmes, France:  Abbaye Saint-Pierre, 1990), pages 698-699

Adieu, mon pere.  Je t’aime.






One response to “The Long Goodbye

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  1. Pingback: Eulogy for My Father | ORIGINAL POEMS AND FAMILY HISTORY BLOG

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