Matthew Henry Smith, ’16
Last night I had a dream that the sun was setting and I was in the car with my parents. My father was driving, my mother was beside him in the passenger seat, and I was sitting in the back fraught with confusion. I was confused because my father, Francis, was telling my mother and me about all of the things he wanted to do. Some of the things were small household tasks and others were plans big enough to change the world. I leaned forward, putting my hand on his shoulder and tenderly told him that he could not do these things because he had died. He became angry and shook off my hand, telling me that it wasn’t true. How it could be true if he was driving? My mother never moved, just keeping her eyes on the road. I woke up in tears.
My father spent so much of the last four years in hospitals that the past few weeks without him haven’t been totally foreign in feeling. And beyond the usual, “He was suffering and now it’s a blessing that he is at peace,” I haven’t verbalized the permanence of his absence. Then again, things are starting to come to my attention, like when the front door opens in the evening and I find myself expecting to hear the dog bark, my dad’s briefcase thud to the floor and my mother to call out, “Stand up; your father’s home.” Now the dog barks, the door opens, and a stranger delivers flowers. They are beautiful but they are not my father.
We have all gone back to work and to the places where we live, finding purpose in the busyness, new joys tinged with melancholy. I often begin to message my dad when I find good news to share, but then close my phone when I realize the futility of this action. Moving on will take a long time and the process will likely be a jarring sequence of bangs and busts.
Yet the dream I had last night has me thinking differently. Liturgically speaking we are in a time of Lent, when Catholics walk with Christ on his journey of sacrifice. Despite this, in my heart it is Pentecost, the celebration of Christ sending his Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles in spreading the Gospel. I believe the spirit of my father has interrupted my efforts to move on by reminding me of the work he has yet to do.
In my dream, my father wasn’t incredulous because he couldn’t accept his own death; he was incredulous that I could not see beyond it. I was like Thomas, doubting the miraculous, assuming that my life would be forever devoid of the man who raised me. But it isn’t like that at all. My father shaped my moral compass and remains involved in my choices, each, in part, a reflection of his values. As the Holy Spirit guides all of us who mourn the death of Christ and hope in his resurrection, the living spirit of my father guides me, my family and all who he touched.
Last night I did not dream of my father; my father came to meet me in my dream. And he told me that his work isn’t finished. And he told me not to doubt that it could be done. And my mother keeps her eyes on the road because she knows it is so. She is driven by my father and, now reminded, so am I. He wanted me to see that.
My father lives and it is true because he is driving.
Matthew has been a contributor to Friarside Chats since April of 2013. This is his final post.