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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Living Years

This song has always meant a lot to me. It came out right around the time I lost my father. I faced something of a moral dilemma earlier, and I saw this song. I couldn't help but wonder what my Dad would do, and then the test was over before it started.

I was never estranged from my father, as though we had something to reconcile, though I suppose if I wanted to assign blame to my parents for divorcing, I could. Anyway, he was taken from us when I was still young enough to think he was perfect. Quite honestly though, if you knew his surviving brothers and sisters, talked to his friends, their friends, and countless others, you might begin to believe the hype. A Kettinger is the type of person you want to count as a friend. The bar is set pretty high. I might even be the worst. Pardon the rabbit-trail.

When you get to, "I wasn't there that morning/When my father passed away..." you've hit the part where, if I haven't already begun to cry, it will occur. I usually don't mind a little chatter in the car, even when music I love is playing. Not so in this case. I'll be dead quiet, and I'll be looking at the floor. It just means too much to be another song on the radio. I know that I'm one of those crazy, "Music is the soundtrack to our lives" kind of people, and you may mock me if you wish. The truth is the truth.

I suppose that there are different kinds of people who are optimistic about the Lord's mercy. There is a flippant sort of sinner, who confesses the Lord's mercy as a kind of psychological shield against his own guilt. Like playing Russian Roulette with your soul. Others are so convinced of the reality of Heaven and Hell, counter-intuitively enough, that while they cannot confess universalism, they'd argue that mercy and justice aren't contrasts, the way lovers of wrath seem to suggest.

I could just be a son who loves his father.

Dad didn't practice his Catholicism the way I do; in other ways, he practiced it better than I do. Every time I think of my best self, I think of my father. He might not even deserve that. But such is the knitting of hearts between fathers and sons (and daughters, for that matter). This is the weight of being "Dad." I will be a living picture of God for my future children; woe to those who fail gravely, who choose themselves over their families! Dads are supposed to be heroes. If they say, "We are unprofitable servants; we did our duty," God sees this as especially meritorious, and he sees no contradiction when he will shower them with crowns of glory.

I played Nintendo with my brother shortly after Mom gave us the news. I have learned not to beat myself up about this. Two boys, all of 9 and 8, won't be able to feel what people learn to express. When we saw a family friend at my father's visitation, the gates of my heart flew open. I could have flooded the Earth, if that were possible. I skipped the Mass, but went to the burial. That's where I heard Psalm 23 for the first time. That was the moment, I think, when I first believed in God. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and God does not turn away even the smallest heart who desires Him! May we have even the smallest renunciation of evil, and true hope. One breath of love can move a mountain. Faith, you say, and that is right. In the heart of God, however, it all ends up the same.

You, O God, shall be praised for ever and ever, when death is thwarted for the last time!

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