This piece was originally written in 2004 as a tribute to my Dad on his 70th birthday. It is one of my favorite pieces. I won’t say more. Let the piece speak for itself.
As I approach my father’s 70th birthday, it’s hard to believe so much time has passed by. I remember as a little girl, looking up to my Daddy who was a colossal 6 feet 2 inches tall, with broad shoulders. A giant of a man, yet with such a tender, gentle heart. As a child, I remember our family moving to a farm 2 hours from the city so my parents could spend time writing. We would take long family walks together. It always seemed that my mother and brother would charge ahead, while I walked behind with my father – me, because my legs were the shortest, and my father, because he liked to stop and look at some small flower or bird. A gentle giant who noticed the smallest flower and the most fleeting bird. Every once in a while, he would pause just to listen or observe – “You hear that, Margaret, that’s a Bob White.” or “You see that, Margaret, that’s a Mountain Laurel.”
But of all my memories, what is most precious is how my father taught me to be a spiritual being. He did this without hardly knowing it, and at a time when he himself had lost faith in the existence of a God. I once tried to tell my father about this memory, but he seemed to think the memory was a painful one for me, and apologized. I didn’t know what to say, so said nothing, but now wish I had clarified. It happened when I was around 6 years old. We lived on the farm then. It was glorious – a house on a hill nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I stood out in front of the house, mountains greeted me in every direction. I was just at the age that it was dawning on me that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, among others, were not real. Other questions began to creep into my mind, so one day I went out to ask my father, “Dad, is God real?”
“Well, Margaret,” he replied, in his honest philosophical voice, that never talked down to me, “I don’t believe in him, but others feel differently. I think your mother may feel differently.”
From there I went to my mother, who replied, “I think there’s some power out there, but I don’t know what it is.”
Today, I have deep gratitude for these answers. My father was an atheist, but he was a humble atheist. He didn’t pretend that he knew the answers for me, and thus put the question back in my own hands. So, I ended up standing in front of our house and asked the Universe, or whatever might be out there: “Is God real?” In a moment, as I gazed over the visual cacophony of colors bespeckling the autumn Blue Ridge Mountain range, I knew. I am still amazed to this day, that a young 6-year old girl could have the thoughts that flashed through my mind, but when I looked at those mountains I saw the work of an artistic genius. I knew. Dad, your answer was not a painful one for me, but a powerful one. My memories of those days are the sweetest I know. I was unknowingly pointed to the only One who could answer my question, and I heard the Voice answering visually from the mountains. Now as I reflect back I realize that even the power of observation that answered me that day was taught to me by my father. No, Dad it was not painful, it was the day God spoke. Thank you.
“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.” (The Book of Romans, The Message Bible)
“So you’ll go out in joy, you’ll be led into a whole and complete life. The mountains and hills will lead the parade, bursting with song. All the trees of the forest will join the procession, exuberant with applause. No more thistles, but giant sequoias, no more thorn bushes, but stately pines – Monuments to me, to God, living and lasting evidence of God.” (The Book of Isaiah, The Message Bible)