It was a cold day in November, much colder than normal even for those parts as Joy sat on the bench at her local park. It was not a busy park, mostly just a few people walking or jogging briskly with a few teenagers scattered here and there in small groups talking and laughing. Laughing was not something Joy had done lately. Her mom had passed away when she was a child and just two years ago her dad had passed away suddenly. He was not an overly emotional man but he had taken care of her, loved her and in her eyes was everything a dad was supposed to be. Now that the numbness had worn off from his passing she was left feeling sad about life and filled with questions no one had answers to. Her life was okay. She had a good job, a loving husband and two teenage children to keep her busy but she still felt empty inside as though nothing could bring happiness back to her life. As the sun began to set she pulled her jacket closer around her to try and keep the cool winds away. Just as she was about to get up and leave she felt someone sit down next to her.
Joy turned to glance at the person who had sat next to her and she stared in disbelief as she found herself staring at her dad. He saw her expression and smiled that smile she knew so well. “Can’t believe it’s me can you? I wouldn’t have either if I were in your shoes.” he said quietly. Joy looked around and found that it was just her and her dad although she could not figure out how he was there. “How are you here? Why can I see you? Why am I just seeing you now?” she asked quickly as though afraid if she did not get all her questions out at once he would disappear. Her dad sat quietly for a moment staring out at the sun setting and finally answered “I’m here now and you can see me now because you need me and I chose now because it is now that you need me the most. I’m worried about you and I’m not supposed to be worried where I am. It isn’t allowed.” he said almost teasingly. Joy felt her face get hot as the tears came to her eyes and that familiar lump came into her throat. “I’m sorry” she said in barely a whisper. “Don’t apologize kiddo. You have questions and I have some answers for you.” he said with a smile. After a few minutes of quiet he finally said “So aren’t you going to ask me? Don’t you want to know what heaven is like?” Joy thought for a moment and finally said “What is it like? Are you with mom?”. Her dad smiled and said “I hate to disappoint you but truthfully, I’m not there yet.” Joy looked confused and asked “Then where are you?”. Her dad smiled and said “I’m at a waiting place. It’s peaceful there. It’s always sunny, I can fish as much as I want and it’s like a constant place of rest. I think we all get our own place of waiting and then eventually we will all be together when the Big Guy wants us together”. Joy thought about it for a second and then asked “Did it hurt?” . Her dad looked at her for a minute before saying ” You mean when I died? No. It was like I was sleeping and then on an elevator. Nothing like you would expect”. Finally Joy looked at her dad and asked “What is the purpose of life then? Why are we here if we all just end up going to this so-called “waiting place” where we aren’t even together? What is THE POINT?” Joy found herself yelling, all the anger and frustration she felt coming out. Her dad looked at her for a minute before answering.
After what seemed like an eternity he looked at her and said “Kiddo, the point that you are referring to is what you make of it. It’s all of those moments you had as a kid where I used to swing you around, it’s that happiness you first felt when you got your acceptance letter to school, and it’s those moments where you are spending time with your husband and kids laughing and having a good time. Those moments you don’t seem to have anymore” Joy cried silently as his words sank in. She finally got out in barely a whisper “I can’t find those moments anymore. I try and I try but it’s like it’s a well that has run dry”. Her dad looked her in the eye and said “Then you have to find a new source. Just like a well that has run dry, you have to find a new place to look. Looking at the same things every day, the same pictures, reliving the same memories, the same regrets, it’s not going to get you back to where you thought you were happy. You have to start over and find new things to make you happy.” Joy looked off into the distance and finally asked “How do I do that? I don’t feel as though I have the energy or even hope anymore”. She felt what was like her dad’s hands on her shoulders as she heard him say “You wake up, you breathe in, you breathe out and you search. You try new things, things you never thought you could ever do until you find that spark again. And lastly, let me go. I’m never far away and I’ll always be your dad but I’m not your tomorrow anymore.” Joy turned around and looked at her dad and said “But I don’t want to let you go”. Her dad smiled and put his hand on her cheek like he did when she was a little girl and said “Letting go isn’t forgetting me, it’s just saying “till I see you again”. Joy looked at him for a minute and felt a little peace within. While it was small she knew it was something and she knew he was right. She also knew he would be leaving very soon and she probably wouldn’t see him again for a while if ever. As he started to walk away she asked “Will I see you again dad?” He turned around and smiled and said “I’ll be watching and we will meet again. Now go home and kiss your husband and kids. I love you kiddo” and with that he faded away before she could say another word.
Joy looked around, not sure what had happened but the world was going on just as it had been before and she picked up her bag and headed home to her family in the cool winter’s wind finally feeling a little happiness in her heart.