Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Disguise of Our Lives: A Letter to My Parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

What a day Sunday was.  I got to sit in the church sanctuary that has been a second home for you for more than 20 years today and be completely surrounded by the love that has embraced y’all all those years.  It was a packed room that celebrated Mom’s steadfast and remarkable gift of music to so many.  There were a lot of tears.  Mine included.  A whole lot of joy.  Including mine, my wife’s, our kids as they ran around making sure they could keep Nana and Papa in their sights and be as close as possible to you at all times – even when the bell choir was playing and we had to keep them in their seats so Mom could direct without little hands and arms reaching up for some Nana love and attention.
Mom and Dad with Abby nearly 6 (!) years ago)

These last several weeks the girls ask us, nearly daily now, when you are going to be here so that you can see them more and not have to drive “all the way from the other house.”  To say that we are looking forward to you living nearby all the time is an understatement at best.  And I have also known, at least on a common-sense level, that leaving a home of 22 years must be a very big deal. (If I ever manage to live in one place for 22 years, I will understand better.  Since you didn’t land there until you are older than I am now, I have faith I might land somewhere, someday, too.  Perhaps I already have, here in these mountains our family returned to year after year.)  Sunday, we also felt the grief of those who have loved you in the place you are leaving.  You did, truly, land there.  Put down roots in all the real ways – in the good and the bad and the everything-in-between seasons.

And in those 22 years, we – me, and the two of you – have had our share of tears.  More angst than any of us would have preferred, more misunderstanding than any of us deserved.  I know that, now.  That it was angst, or more likely sorrow, at the chasms that opened between us as I tried to find my way, as I desperately sought a place to feel at home and safe and known.  You wanted to understand.  To help.  I know that, now.

Dad's birthday August 2014, with all 3 granddaughters: Abby, Zoe and Marley
It is your steadfastness, your relentless commitment to your faith, your unwavering “yes” to church on Sunday and music rehearsals on Monday and leadership meetings and Sunday School lessons and grace before every meal, your literal sharing of time, talent and treasure…your love for your children, even when we wandered in ways beyond what you understood: your witness to the compassion and grace of God that makes every community you land in better because you were there and made it home.

My kids know it.  Feel it.  Delight in it, running to you with dancing eyes and wide-open arms for the Nana and Papa they cannot wait to have here, near them and not “just visiting.”  My wife knows it.  Soaks it in, reaches for it with a gratitude born from too many years of more than enough judgment for anyone’s lifetime. 

Fr. Richard Rohr says something like this, “God, in the end, comes disguised as our lives.”  Witnessing the love of your 22-year-community made me realize how many thank-you’s I have not said, how many moments I have been aware that I know what I know because you are my mom and dad -- and neglected to tell you how much of a difference that has made in all that I do.   God does, in the end, and in every beginning and in-between come to me, to us, in all the mess and all the beauty we’ve managed to create together.  And I know, now, that in all the places I have found a home that I always have – and always will – be at home wherever you are.

I love you, Mom and Dad.  More than words could ever say.  Thanks for loving me back.

                                                                        Your grateful oldest,


NanaThoughts said...


Martha Alewine said...


What a beautiful letter to your parents and a wonderful tribute. My husband and I have known them for many years, graduating from Furman with them, and they were as gracious, loving, fun-loving, God-filled then as they are now. You are blessed to have them as your parents. Thank you for saying those things to and about them while you still have many years to share life with them.