Today is the 22nd anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve written several tributes to him at my former blog and, honestly, I am finding it difficult to summon up the energy and inclination to write another one. But last night I went back through and read them all and I think this one from 2007 is my favorite. I’m posting it here today in memory of Al Bybee, my father.
Tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. In many ways it seems much longer, like he died a lifetime ago. He passed away when I was 10 years old and now, 20 years later, I’m still a little surprised at how much I miss him sometimes. With time, you learn to cope with certain losses. The pain isn’t always unbearable. Most of the time it’s dull and distant. I guess you just learn to keep yourself busy with other things so you don’t have to really dwell on the parts of your life that are painful. At least that’s what I tend to do.
But 20 years later, I miss my father so much more now. I guess this is largely due to the fact that I’m a husband and father now myself. It really pains me that I don’t get to share my life with him– my wife, my kids, my ministry, etc. The pain has always been especially palpable at the “special” times: like when I graduated from high school or when I graduated from college or when I got married or when the kids were born. But lately I’ve been more aware of the little things I miss out on like phone calls to talk about the ball game or fishing trips with my kids…the ordinary kinds of things that fathers and sons and grandchildren do together. I’ve even started showing Joshua and Abby Kate some of my old pictures of my Dad. I guess I want them to recognize him when they meet him someday.
I often daydream about what it would be like if he were still here, what it would be like for him to be in my home, to be in my world. In my daydream, he tells me that he’s really proud of how good Joshua is at baseball. They go to the backyard and play catch and Joshua keeps throwing the ball over his head and Dad just laughs and laughs. He’s blown away by Abby Kate’s uncanny memory when it comes to her Bible stories and he takes her and puts her on his knee and reads to her. And of course, he’s crazy about Jackson and he scoops him up and cradles him in his arms as if he is my father’s most treasured possession. In my dream, he’s finding something to tease Sunny about, like her neatly organized pantry or her absolute refusal to eat fish of any kind. She rolls her eyes at him and he laughs as he hugs her. We sit around and he tells the funny stories that make everybody laugh and then he gets out his guitar and he and I sing Johnny Cash and “You Are My Sunshine” to our wives. And we eat Stickies and watch old episodes of Andy Griffith and The Honeymooners. And in my dream, we never say goodbye.
These are the dreams that take me captive on days like today. They sustain me in those times when the pain is no longer dull and distant, but immediate and sharp. And I relish these dreams, for I believe these are the dreams of eternity; dreams of reconciliation and restoration and peace. I relish these dreams because they’re all I have. Dreams. And hope. And a promise of someday…
Until this valley becomes a mountain,
Until this sword in my heart becomes a plowshare,
Until these dreams come true,
I’ll be missing you, Dad.