Perhaps it is because my mother is getting older that I now grieve the loss of my father's senior years. He would have had his 71st birthday this year. I long for the wisdom he might have shared with me. I mourn the loss of just being able to talk with him about how ministry is indeed a good way for me to live my life and to give of myself to others. I guess I could imagine what he would say to me, and there are times that my imagination can be very healing. But I really didn't know my father well enough to imagine what he might have said. So I miss what he might have actually said to me, about his daughter serving as a pastor.
My father was also a UCC minister, but it was not a joyful or fulfilling ministry for him. He was an alcoholic. He began his ministry serving in the Air Force as a chaplain, first here in the U.S., then in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. He was given a medical discharge because his alcoholism was so severe. After some time in a VA hospital, he then served as Minister of Christian Education at a UCC church in Massachusetts. He was asked to leave that position because of his drinking. My father then sobered up and not long afterward began counseling others with addictions and other crisis situations.
However, he was still smoking. The counseling took a toll on his already worn-out body and psyche, and he went on permanent disability around the age of 40. He moved to the mountains of North Carolina with my stepmother and her three children to be a 'gentleman farmer'. But congestive heart failure had already set in--it was just a matter of time.
So, at the age of fifteen, when I told him that I was thinking about becoming a minister, he replied, half tongue in cheek, "Why would you want to ruin your life?" So you can see how I might be curious as to what he would think now about what I am doing. I can imagine he would be proud of me, that he would see the sense of it. But I wish I could know how living another 24 years, in relationship with his daughter, would have influenced his opinion. And that is what I grieve.