Good Friday morning ...
Easter ... 1974. It was a troublesome time.
The actual date was April 14th ... but the date wasn't realy important. What was important back then is still vitally important today ... the fact that there is so much more to life than what happens today.
My father was sick ... but we had no idea how desperately sick he was. The worst was still beneath the surface ... undetected ... growing ... preparing for the kill. His cancer had rekindled itself sometime around his sixtieth birthday in January of that year. Until then, he had been so thankful to have come through his initial bout with prostate cancer the previous year. He had become healthy again, active ... a rejuvenated Erve Engel. And then ... it returned.
Within six months he would die at age sixty ... but that's another story. This one is about Easter 1974.
I had come home with my wife and young son over Easter break. It was the thing to do when you had a break from studies at seminary. We had driven the eleven hours from the north shore of Massachusetts ... always a tiring, grueling effort ... so it felt terrific to be home, to sleep in the house where I grew up, to smell the aroma of my mother's home cooking, to hear the familiar sounds of a house grown old.
But it was a different place. My daddy was sick ... again.
His initial bout with cancer had been a horrible experience of surgery, experimental drugs, delusionary conversations, unanswered medical questions and absolute frustration. When it was finally over (living through it, we thought it would NEVER end), we were relieved and extremely grateful to our gracious God. But no one was more grateful ... no one expressed more thanks ... no one had more peace ... no one understood more about what had happened than daddy. He was the survivor; he was the one who fought the battle; he was the one who overcame the hellish experience; he was the great warrior of faith. And now on Easter Sunday 1974 ... his faith shone brightly ... his heart exuded joy ... his life was full.
Conversations with my father were seldom lengthy and never formal. He was most comfortable in casual conversation ... making a point here and there ... always driving toward his mark ... respectful of your thoughts ... but ultimately leaving you with his own.
Our memorable Easter conversation took place in the afternoon at the edge of the garden where we had gone for a short walk. We had just passed his homemade swing which was securely suspended from a pine tree at just the right height for visiting grandchildren. The swing must have triggered some serious emotions, for by the time we reached the grapevines, not fifteen feet away, my father grabbed a post and hung on as if he were going to collapse. His hands lay across one another on top of the post, his head bent, his forhead resting against his hands. I thought he was tired ... until I saw the tear. Daddy never cried ... but he did on Easter 1974.
The tears didn't last long because they were quickly covered by his words ... softly spoken, with emotion and an immensely burdened heart.
"Life is so short, son! And I am so thankful to God for all of mine! God has been so good to me!" His voice was strong; he meant what he said, always did, because daddy was a man of conviction ... certain, assured, confident of God's love for him.
"I have been so blessed in my life and I know I may not live much longer. Thank you for sharing Easter with me again!" His voice wavered, catching itself in the throat, and the tears returned. And then ... with an Erve Engel smile he said, "But Easter is just a day. The resurrection is for eternity!"
The "theologian" was instructing the novice. The one to barely graduate high school was teaching the graduate student. The father was counseling his son. And we both cried a joyful tear, then walked quickly together back to the house where we sat on the porch.
The day was soon over. And so was my daddy's life. He would die on July 3rd, not three months after his last celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday 1974.
This Easter brought back the memories ... but not the man. That must wait for the resurrection of all felsh ... when daddy and I will celebrate again on the porch ... forever.
"I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. But after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see Him with my own eyes --- I, and not another." [Job 19:25-27a]
Have a blessed week ... still basking in the resurrection of our Lord.