A week ago, I walked out my door to go to the grocery store, I heard birds singing! The sun was shining, and it was in the mid 50s!
It felt like an early spring, but I live in Minnesota, and it is February so . . . as I write this today we are having a major snow storm.
Ah, well. Everyone I meet is talking about the changes of the seasons, and anxiously waiting for spring to arrive. It is a transitional time, not only with the weather, but also in the church year as Ash Wednesday looms just a few weeks away. We are moving from ordinary time into the Lenten season, looking toward Easter—from winter to springtime—death to new life through the Resurrection.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die . . . (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
There is a time, and a purpose for everything about our human lives.
Transitions have been on my mind quite a lot lately, because of this long winter, and our approaching penitential season, but also because February 28 is the 20th anniversary of losing my dad.
That night, our family had gone out to dinner to celebrate my mother's birthday. After a nice meal together, I asked my dad if he would mind driving around to a drug store, for a few things I needed. My 6-year-old son stayed in the car with his grandpa, because wherever dad was, my son wanted to be. My mom and I went into the store, but after a few minutes, I had a very strong sense that we just needed to leave, and not shop around.
I didn't know why I had that feeling, but I felt strongly urged to hurry.
As soon as we got into the car, my dad started to tell my son, "See little buddy, when I told you that when a woman says that she will only be a minute—" and then I heard him coughing.
And then silence.
My mom said, "Paul, Paul . . .Oh my God, Paul!"
I didn't think—I just reacted; I jumped out of the back-seat passenger side of the car trailing it to run around to the driver's door. The car was still moving slowly in the parking lot, but I was able to open the door to put on the emergency brake to stop it. Thankfully, that side of the lot was practically empty, but it also meant I wasn't sure if anyone would hear me call for help.
I was holding my dad's head back to open his airway. I tried to feel for a pulse, but couldn't find one. I didn't know where my mom was; I later learned that she fell while trying to run for help. Someone from the drug store came out to say they had called 911.
In the hospital, the ER doctor said that he had tried to save my father, but it was too late. It had been a massive heart attack, and likely even when I was holding my dad in the car he was already gone.
Replaying it all in my head, later, I realized that the Lord was right there with us, and each second of that night had been planned out and timed, like choreography.
I don't know how I, as a blind person, ran around that car to stop it; I can't explain the timing of my mom and me getting back to the car only a moment before my dad had the heart attack. Had we stayed in the store—had I not paid attention to that prompting to hurry—my little boy would have been alone with my dad.
And if we had left sooner, without stopping at that store, we might have been on a very busy road when his heart attack came; we could have caused an accident that might have carried off many more lives.
I remember that night, and the way I held my dad and prayed. In my prayer, I thought about my own experience at age 20, when I had almost died. I wondered if dad was feeling the same peace I had felt. I knew I had gotten a small "sneak peek" of an eventual promise, if I would only stay true to God's purpose.
There is a time and a season for everything, and a purpose under heaven. Just like the birdsong I heard last week—that was a sneak-peek of the promise of spring, in the middle of winter.
A glimpse of spring is like a glimpse of eternal life; a reminder that we are always in transition. All things, and all lives run true to their times and seasons, if we just trust in the plan of the one who has choreographed each moment. ". . .not [a sparrow] falls to the ground, outside your Father's care" (Mt. 10:29).
We miss my dad, but know that he is waiting for us—in an eternal springtime with the Lord—and for our "family reunion" one day. What a comfort to me as I remember him now, twenty years later.