Pastor Note #26 — After His Dad Died

The graveyard behind the Hector Presbyterian Church, Hector, NY; photo by GAC

{The following post is the text of a letter I wrote to a man in his early fifties shortly after his father died.}

Dear F.,

There is an ache and strangeness that comes when our parents die.   I don’t think it really matters a lot how old we or they are when that happens.

I find that in addition to the grief we feel at the loss of someone whom we loved and who has loved us, the passing of our parents forces us to re-arrange our sense of how we fit into the world.  I’m writing here out of my own experience.   I realize your experience may feel different.  In any case, the death of our parents is a sort of watershed event in life, even when it comes after they have reached the “fullness of years” and we have passed half the “fullness of years.”

As I watched your kids at the cemetery, I was struck by how differently and yet how appropriately each was responding.  L. (a daughter in high school) is very empathetic.  She was very much outside herself and attuned to other people’s needs.  M. (a son in high school) was clearly feeling the loss deeply and seemed not too worried whether others saw that.  N. (a son in elementary school — still so young — seemed to be very observant, trying as best he could to understand it all.

As I was talking to N., I realized that I was almost exactly his age when my maternal grandfather died.  I was very close to him.  I

In the graveyard behind Hector Presbyterian Church, Hector, NY; photo by GAC

guess  in 1962 they thought we were too delicate at that age for such events, because I wasn’t taken to the funeral home, to the funeral, or to the graveside committal service.  He was just there one day, and then he was gone.  It still makes me sad.

You did well to include your kids fully in the process.  It will make them deeper, fuller, richer people.

In life and in death, we are in God’s hand.  Look for him in all that has just passed and in what will yet come from it.

Yours in Christ,


© 2011 Gary A. Chorpenning; all rights reserved.


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