This weekend we laid my dad to rest in our hometown of Pensacola, Florida. It could not have been a more beautiful service. Our minister from our childhood performed the ceremony, and the words he said will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was so touched to see the people who took time out of their days to stand next to my family during a very difficult time. I think their presence moved me more than anything else.
It wasn’t as hard as I worried it would be. I had said goodbye to my dad a while ago, and have spent the past six months making peace with his passing through prayer. I think I was ready to lay him to rest. It was sad to leave him, though. I know that he wasn’t there anymore. The spiritual and rational sides of my brain tell me that. He has gone on, but it was still hard to leave him there by himself.
There was a soloist who sang my dad’s favorite hymn, “I Come to the Garden.” I can’t hear that song without thinking about my dad singing it in church. Actually, I can’t hear many hymns without thinking about my dad singing any of them in church. It was one of the reasons I had such a hard time going back to church after he passed. My dad had this big, loud, robust voice that might have been in tune, had he remembered the words to anything he sang. My dad didn’t talk much in front of people about his faith, so I think that’s why it was always sort of startling to hear his booming voice radiate out over a sanctuary. Completely uninhibited. I will miss that, but if I close my eyes, I can still hear him singing.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the joy I hear, falling on my ears
The son of God discloses…
And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever know.
During the service, our minister talked about that garden. He talked, of course, about the first garden with Adam and Eve. But he talked more about gardens in our lives. Places we go to feel connected to God, or to whatever it is we seek. And the whole time he spoke, I kept picturing me sitting with God and talking in a garden, and my dad sitting on the bench with us.
My dad has passed on, and while I miss him every single day, there is a sweet kind of peace in knowing that he is sitting in that garden that he loved to sing about.