Monday, May 28, 2012



My sister, Niki, called in September, 1983, to tell me that my Dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wasn't expected to live more than three months. As she was hanging up she said, "Write a poem for Dad. I know you can." 

I left for work, driving about 20 miles to Oklahoma City, and on the way I saw sunlight "swords" cutting through the clouds, which lifted me out of the heavy dumpiness I was feeling. Before I reached the office I had the majority of the poem running through my head. That very day, I sent the poem to Niki and she put a photo of Dad with it and framed it and gave it to him. He kept it until he died, and it was given to me after his memorial service. I've had it on a shelf for twenty eight years -- same old scruffy frame, same old paper.

Now, for most of our years, Dad and I had a pretty intense, frequently angry and violent, relationship. We rarely saw each other or spoke or wrote for most of the last twenty years of his life.

Dad had been raised in a violent and addictive family.  When the Great Depression hit, his poor family became poorer.  He had to quit school after 8th grade, because he needed to work any way he could.  I've been told that he, as a teen, hit the freight trains, trying to get quick jobs or stealing what was needed.

I honestly think my dad had good intentions. However, with no proper upbringing and all the stress, he entered alcoholism, among other "evilistic" behaviors -- fighter, womanizer, thief -- as a young man.  I didn't know him well as a young girl, because my parents weren't married until I was 3-1/2 and went back and forth between their families in Portland and Tacoma, either together or separately.  Back in 1945, when I was born, that was extremely unusual and most certainly not acceptable, socially or otherwise.

The physical abuse began when I was 5.  He was drunk and he and Mom fighting and I'd end up in the middle.  When I was 7 and babysitting my sisters [3 by then, 2 to come], both Dad and Mom would come home drunk and "discipline" me for not doing a good enough job.  I was one angry, bitter, fighting kid.  And, so disappointed to have a Dad like him.  And so desiring for him to have life turn a good way.  I DID see him wanting to do better, and he would try for a while -- and then a binge would hit him, and my world would fall apart again.

During graduation, May, 1963, in Klickitat, WA, I was a salutatorian, speaking for a few minutes.  My Dad showed up right before the ceremony and sat in the front row -- and was so drunk he could hardly stay on his chair.  When I was speaking, I could see him slumping, starting to fall to the side aisle. I was embarrassed... and furious.

I left home the next day; had a nanny job in Tacoma for summer before college.  I saw him occasionally during the next few years, but most of the time it wasn't a cheerful stretch.  Later, I lived in other parts of the country.  I couldn't afford to travel to Washington in those days, so it was years without seeing him or the rest of my family.  He called a couple of times, but was drunk, and always screaming at me for some reason I never knew.  After I had come to the Lord I had hoped to bring our lives together somehow, but it wasn't happening.

THEN the blessing I had desired hit my life. On a Saturday here in Omaha I received a letter from him dated March 17, 1979, with the following: 

"I finally gave up my solo fight against alcohol and went to church ... I came away with an awful load off my back; I hadn't realized how heavy it was. My problems are still here, but the Lord is sharing my burden. I am really surprised at the feeling.

"Things are looking up for me now, but it wouldn't hurt for you to say a small prayer for me, I need all the help I can get."

After Niki called me in September, and Dad had remained alive, our whole family decided to get together for Thanksgiving, 1983, just to be with him, and we all hadn't met together for many years. Blessedly, I was given an airplane ticket between Oklahoma and Sea-Tac.  I could never have done it otherwise.  I had a short, but sweet, alone time with him; he was giving a Thanksgiving-eve testimony at his church and we simply sat and enjoyed each other and then someone took a photo for me. I returned to Oklahoma a couple days later.

He died May 22, 1984, living several months longer than anticipated.

As I've often said, I'm looking forward to eternity in heaven, partly to enjoy some TRUE time with my Dad, who I miss very much.


We’re so much alike – you and I –
We think and we feel much the same.
When we love, it’s a deep, soul-filling love,
When we hurt, it’s with soul-rending pain.

We’re like mirrors – mirror images.

Two needn’t be close –
If you’re counting the miles –
To Share this world’s Days and its Night.
There are soul-mates
Who travel life’s path side by side
Though mountains and plains bar their sight.

And we’re mirrors – you and I – mirror images.

Without Jesus to keep us, we’d Die – you and I
Eternally lost from our Lord.
Our hurts closed our hearts
to the goodness of God,
And we turned our backs to His Word...

We’re SO alike – like mirrors – mirror images

But He reached us – He found us
And He healed our hearts –
The greatest of healings provided.
We opened our hearts to receive 

that great love,
And now He walks closely beside us.

We walk hand-in-hand,
But with Jesus between –
As He looks in our hearts, we can say
It’s not just the one,
or the Two,
But the THREE of us,
Who will love through Eternity’s Day.

Shining like mirrors – mirror images.

The Peter Pollock Word Carnival choice is "Missing"


Beth said...

A student lost his alcoholic father several months ago-he was found unresponsive at home. The boy is 15. His mother was recently arrested for driving blitzed with drugs, wrecking her car, and causing damage to two vehicles besides her own, a telephone pole, and endangering the lives of people in the store which the pole kept her from crashing into. The sheriff took her away in handcuffs. J's grandparents and uncle have been waiting for just this moment--they will file for custody of him. It's his best chance. But oh how he misses his dad, even with all that drinking. (His parents were no longer together and J. lived with his dad and probably took more care of him than the reverse.)
I have no concept of that kind of life, Jo. I was blessed that my dad figured out the drinking thing before I was born and followed mom's lead to the altar.
Your story gives hope though to ones like J. I've heard some of it before and may have read the poem---it seems familiar.
It's beautiful, friend, as are you.
Blessings to you.

Cris Ferreira said...

Jo, I had tears in my eyes as I read this post. I am so sorry that you went through all that, but I am joyful that God healed the wounds and you were able to enjoy some good time with your father before he passed. And you are right, the best is yet to come.
May God use this testimony to touch the lives of others who might be going through the same situation or who might need healing.
Many blessings to you, sister!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo,

I have read the poem before, but what a priceless treasure it is and to get to
read it again. It brings my thoughts to my own dad, whom I loved and miss now
even though he has been in Heaven for 14 years. He and I were a lot alike.
Thank you for sharing such a precious poem and the path of you and your dad.


Jennifer Richardson said...

wishing to curl my arms around
you somehow
and lift away the leftover pain.
So grateful we have this
amazing shepherd
who's ON swooning over you Himself, his own heart thumping glad with pleasure over
the treasure that you are
and this amazing restoration that is already
in the works.
Just sensing His big heart full-up
with love for you, his sweet brave girl:)
loving and lifting you,

Anonymous said...

This is such an encouraging testimony. It still works, doesn't it? I'm looking forward to seeing Dad, too....and just think--we also have Mom and a ton of other "family" members. It's getting better all the time.

Floyd said...

Thanks for sharing a personal story. While our lives aren't perfect, God is. He is the author of happy endings.

I lost my dad to cancer two years ago May 7th. Maybe that's why God had me read this. It is moving and the poem is like a voice from heaven. "Mirror images."

Thanks for sharing, I'm blessed because of it...

Scriptor Senex said...

Gosh - what a moving post.

My immediate thought about the graduation ceremony was that he had at least tried - and turned up. But that would hardly have been any consolation for his behaviour at the time.

What a super poem and what does the state of the paper matter - I have a tribute to my son which is going yellow and curling but I wouldn't update it or smarten it up for the world.

Thanks for putting so much effort into yopur post.

Unknown said...

Wow - what a heartfelt and thought provoking post. There is truly no pain in our past that God's love can't break through. Loved the poem!

Joe Pote said...

What a painful period for so many years!

What a tremendous blessing to have that time of healing with your Dad, later in life!

What a wonderful tribute to your Dad, thru this poem!

This life is such a mixture of joy and sorrow, isn't it?

Thank you, for sharing, Joanne!

Susan said...

Your dad reminds me of my maternal grandfather. He had "gotten clean" by the time I was born and the family reconciled, but still bore the scars.

So glad you moved beyond the pain and found healing and restoration in our Lord.
Blessings to you!!

Saleslady371 said...

Your story is a beautiful one, because it leads in the end to hope. To Jesus! Won't it fantastic to fellowship with your dad in heaven where all the pain is gone forever. Thank you for sharing this poem. It is beautiful.

Gayle said...

Wow, what an incredible testimony. I've been over at A Holy Experience reading the comments of the broken hearts and how hard they are struggling to forgive and go on, letting the Lord do the convicting. I am amazed at your grace, His grace, flowing through you to your dad. It is not always easy...