Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Life with that great cloud of witnesses

Early this morning, I was in one of those liminal states, somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, when I sensed my father's presence. He didn't speak. I didn't see him. But I'm sure he was there, as if right beside me, and his presence was one of love for me.

My father, Gilbert Hurt Chumbley, Sr., died in November 1994. Although we'd had our struggles over the years, especially because of his alcoholism, we loved one another. After a long absence from one another, we'd kiss one another on the cheek. I thought nothing about it. It seemed right.

Saturdays, when I still lived near him in Louisville we'd spend our mornings together, drinking coffee and talking. Then when I moved away--first to seminary in New York City and then to southern Kentucky and later to upstate New York--we'd talk on Saturdays by phone. We never missed a Saturday.

I knew my father loved me. He told me so. He showed me. He always told me how proud he was of me. I've tried to be that kind of father to my daughter Clare, and now, I'm trying to be that kind of grandfather to June Elizabeth and Christa Marie.

At every celebration of the Holy Eucharist, I remember my dad in the prayers for the departed, my spiritual director telling me a long time ago that doing so would help me stay connected with him spiritually. It works, too.

This morning in that dream state, my dad visited me. He was alive with love for me.

And then this morning at the Holy Eucharist at the sleepy hour of 7, I read the lesson from Hebrews 9.11-15, 24-28 and heard those words outwardly and inwardly.

The writer speaks about the Communion of Saints, that great cloud of witnesses who compasses us about, to quote the Prayer Book, with their loving and strengthening presence.

Today in my dream, the heavenly and earthly communions met, and my dad and I were together again, if only for an instant, and I believe and know that we shall be together again. Only momentarily in this world. But then eternally in the world to come.

Daddy, I love you.

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