Six years ago today, on this date and on this day, was the last day my father walked this earth.  He would have liked the weather today – brisk and gray.  It goes without saying that I think of him often.  I wish he were alive.

But I am not sad.  He lived a big, long, full life.  We anticipated his death – there was nothing sudden about it and for that I feel very blessed. Though six years is starting to seem a little distant, it is not hard – not one bit – for me to sense him whenever I want.  I can hear his voice, I can see his smile, I can listen to his laugh.  I know what he smelled like (an odd mix of Listerine and 4711…I don’t suggest anyone try it but it worked for him).  I can hear him say my mother’s name “Loring!” with love and exasperation.  I can recall how it felt to hug him at different stages of his life – when he was overweight and full, when he was post cancer treatment and without hair, when his body was starting to give out and his shoulder bones became more apparent but still so warm, so loving, never letting a hug go first. I can dial up music that he loved and go straight back to 6PM any given weeknight in the ’80s and imagine him downstairs in his chair post work, waiting for dinner. I know what it felt like when he touched a cheek or laid his hands on my head, as he did so many times, to give a blessing.  I can see his stance in the pulpit delivering a sermon. On that front, he was more Bill Clinton than Typical Preacher…I could have listened to him for hours.  I can see him swirl his pen before signing his name.  He drank black coffee.

So he is never far.  But there are times when even I am amazed by the closeness.  See he was a crafty guy – especially for a priest.  He loved a good joke and one of his biggest life lessons to me was “You might get what you want but it probably won’t come in the package you expect.”  At the risk of sounding supernatural, I am pretty sure he continues to reveal himself to me often…

  • A few months ago I was standing in Times Square with a million other people and a man walked up to me.  Before he spoke he struck me as peaceful.  He approached me from pretty far away and said “Excuse me, can you tell me how I might get to The General Theological Seminary?” Not Rock Center, or the Empire State Building but GTS.  Since my dad happened to have gone there indeed, yes I could.  In that crowd of thousands I was the perfect person to ask.  What do you know.
  • I look like him more and more as I get older.  I never saw it until a couple of years ago.  And now in pictures and the mirror I see it everyday.
  • Standing in a deli recently, buying my coffee, I noticed a chocolate bar on the counter.  Not just any chocolate bar. This was a Tabasco Spicy Chocolate Bar (dark…not milk…an important distinction as he never would have approved of milk).  For those that knew him, you may agree the combination of those two things in a bar is nothing short of a direct gesture from the heavens.  Had he been alive he would have bought as many as they had.
  • And then last weekend, the same night six years ago when we last had a family dinner with him, he showed up again.  See last Saturday at that very same time, my husband and I called a restaurant to see how long the wait was.  The hold music struck me – I couldn’t place it but knew it.  It was a hymn.  I recorded it and texted it to my sister who in an instant identified it as the hymn “I Bind Unto Myself Today” which was HIS hymn. That was the one.  He had it played at his ordination and then at his funeral.  What are the chances that a Thai restaurant chose that as their hold music and we happened to hear it at the very moment when six years prior we were all together.

This is how I felt six years ago:  At the time I was worried I would lose the sense of him.  But now with time passing it seems he’s still as close as ever.  I have no doubt.