JUST AS THERE are two kinds of sin, acts of commission and acts of omission, the things you did and the things you didn’t, so there are two kinds of loss in bereavement–what you had and will never have again, and what you never had and will never get the chance to.
Each has its sweetness and pain. In the never-to-be-repeated, there is the delight of the memory and the sting of a taste that cannot be savored one more time. With the never-to-be-realized there is the sunshine speculation of what might have been and the shadowed reality of what wasn’t.
Maybe, like a finely balanced scale, you need both to be able to fully embrace either. That was certainly the experience of God’s people when they gathered to celebrate the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Ezra 3:13, you “could not distinguish the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping.”
This bittersweet blend has also been mine this week as family came together for the farewell service for my father, who passed away earlier this month aged eighty-nine.
He was widely and fondly remembered as a quiet gentleman who was devoted to my mother. I’m grateful to him for that and so much more, including the journalist gene he inherited from his father and passed on to me.
After all, what’s not to love about sitting around reading and playing with words all day? I often say that Butcher men have not had a real job in three generations.
But perhaps the truest way to honor Dad is not only to acknowledge all that I have to be grateful for in him, but to recognize too what I missed out on. His respectful reserve softened a little through the years, like a glimpse of sun through the clouds, but, to me at least, he seemed more comfortable with others’ words than his own.
I don’t believe I make less of him by saying I wanted more of him. Wishing I’d known more of the private man behind the publicly gentle part is actually not putting him down but elevating him. It says that he mattered, maybe more than he ever realized.