7/03/2006

The Wisest Man in the Universe

My dad is the wisest man in the universe and he's dying. He says the good thing about knowing you're dying is that you get to look back over your life. For us kids, it's meant we have a chance to say goodbye. But as he's the wisest man in the universe, I feel like there's just so much I need to learn from him before he goes. I feel like the remedial student, always trying to "Get it." I never quite "get it," at least not all of it. I could never hope to get "it" all with Dad. There's just too much. He is rich with wisdom.

My brother asked him what was the meaning of life...(I'm telling you, we honestly think he knows!) And Dad said life is all about compassion and learning to be kind. He says we need to learn to be kinder to one another if this planet's going to survive.

In his last homily he said compassion was like amber. Thousands of years ago when a pine tree was wounded it produced sap to cover the wound and thirty to ninety million years later, that sap becomes the gem, amber.


One night, late, I said I didn't know how it was he could spend just a little time with a person and yet seem to know them so completely. "You just seem to 'get' everyone! I wish I knew how to do that!"

He was tucked under his covers, pale and looking very weak, but suddenly he became more animated. "You really want to know?"

I dropped my purse and keys on the floor and sat down on the edge of the bed. "Yeah, Dad, I really want to know."

"Don't listen to the answers people give you, listen to the questions they ask. That's what's important."

He went on to say that peoples' questions indicate what they're interested in. He said, "Think of it like a big tree. The answers are the limbs. The stuff they already have answers to, those are the dead limbs. They know the answers to those questions. But over there, where you see the leaves turning green, that's where they're growing, those are the questions. Always go with the questions."

Dad's world seems to be getting smaller as his life ebbs away. He's lost so much weight. When I hug him, I feel as if my arms are holding fragile bird bones. When he speaks his voice is softer, sometimes only a whisper. And this week, for the first time, he seems a little forgetful or confused.

I read somewhere that American Indians say of those who are dying, "Their spirit is light to the ground."

Last night my friend, Martha, dreamed that she was in a huge colliseum, filled with people. Dad sat next to her wearing his vestments, with a large gold crown on his head. She said another man in white vestments appeared, with a smaller crown, and was almost sheepish as he began to address the crowd, as if he knew he didn't belong where he was.

Martha, noting that Dad's crown was far larger, turned to him.

"Shouldn't you be the one to do this?" she asked Dad.

"Oh, that's all right," Dad answered, "They just don't know I'm here yet."

Oh, but they will.

1 comment:

danawales said...

In his last homily he said compassion was like amber. Thousands of years ago when a pine tree was wounded it produced sap to cover the wound and thirty to ninety million years later, that sap becomes the gem, amber.
Absolutely beautiful!!!

I see where you get your wonderful ways with words. Your family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Dana