Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letters to my Father-in-law

Dear Gary,

This time of year usually has us scrambling for good ideas for your birthday present.  I think you always knew this, on some level, and probably enjoyed it.  I'll be honest - you were a hard man to buy for.  I think we usually ended up giving you one of three things: a book, a movie (usually war or history), or camping gear.  I think we generally did a pretty good job, but it was always hard to say since you weren't a gusher.

Toward the end of your life, and then afterward, I wrote you letters.  Sent to you, posted online, and some waited.  But you and I had that in common - writing.  You encouraged me in it.  I know you planned on writing a book once you kicked the cancer.  I wish I could have known what you were writing.  I wish I could have read it in print.

I'm writing you now as sort of a last present.  I suppose, true to our tradition, I am scrambling a bit; it's near 11 pm the night before your birthday (and your granddaughter is faithful to get me up around 6 am these days).

I wish many things had been different.  I wish you'd have been healed from the cancer - for the second and last time.  I wish we could have spent more time together, somehow.  I wish I'd have asked you more questions when we were together.  I wish you'd have taken the trail out of Cly lakes instead of having us go off those wretched topo maps, clinging to the sides of shale-covered cliffs.  (I know you'll be laughing at that last one, even if my blog readers are scratching their heads a bit.)

I want to tell you how well your family is doing.  Not to say there aren't days where the loss of you is overwhelming, but they are steadily moving from surviving toward thriving.  When you passed away, I began to look at your family - my family - with different eyes.  I still love them the same, but I'm more aware of them now, with you gone.  My disappointment in losing you and the pain I feel when I see those who love you hurting makes me want to go above and beyond in reaching out to them, in loving them, caring for them and praying for them.  I can now understand why people continue to do things for people they love who have long passed away.  It's because my loving those who you love is another way of continuing to love you, though you're no longer with us.  And I now understand more of how that works into the Kingdom of God.  I want to love God's people because He loves them, and I love Him so dearly.  I want to be an extension of His love back to His people.  Your life - and your death - is teaching me that.  Another thing for which I'll love you forever.

Your son is doing well.  He misses you greatly.  I am so grateful you and Tricia raised such a fine man and that God brought us together.  He's busy planning camping trips through the coming year, and I know you are never far from his thoughts.  You left him a good heritage; we are blessed to pass that on.  Know that we will pass that on.  Siennalee is growing like a wildflower.  She talks about you often.  She knows you are in heaven with Jesus and remembers you gave her that Jack Russell terrier from Build-a-Bear (oh that she had been more temperate for you that day!).  She remembers your face and can pick you out of a line-up (picture).  :)  One of my biggest blessings is that you are in the presence of those beloved souls who couldn't stay with us: your parents, Uncle Mel, my sweet nephews, and my two babies lost last year.  I am comforted that you have two grandchildren to dote on and I am comforted that they have you.  Having you in Heaven, in the presence of God makes it all more real for us still here.  "Treasures in heaven" has new meaning.

I have not forgotten what you told me in what would be our final conversation.  You were so near to seeing the face of God; I've held tightly onto the word you gave me.  You had more to say, I remember, but were going to send it on later.  I suppose I'll just have to wait to hear what that was; it's something I look forward to.

So this is the first of the "Year of Firsts" of having you gone.  Next will be Father's Day.  And so on.  Life will go on, but you will always be missed.  I understand I don't have to wish you a happy birthday; you know nothing but joy where you are now, but it is a happy birthday.  I, as your daughter-in-law, married to your wonderful son, mother to your precious granddaughter, am so grateful there was a birth-day for Gary Kantola.  It made possible my life today and made my joy complete.

Happy Birthday, Gary.

All my heart,
your daughter-in-law Jessica


Momae' said...

Oh Jessica.. I thought I had no more tears.. and now I have the by he wanted to write a devotional books using his Pastor's challenges and hiking illustrations.. maybe..someday.. you could..if you wanna

Robertson Family said...

Beautiful...Jessica, beautiful, I have tears in my eyes...

Anne said...

Beautiful Jess.

bluecottonmemory said...

What a beautiful tribute! I keep telling my husband that his father's heritage is within him and each of his children - and me, too. How wonderful to have a father like that! Or a father-in-law!