sigh...Thank you to those of you who have prayed for me over the past week and have sent cards and emails with thoughtful words and sympathy. They have blessed me so much.
On January 11, 2008 my dad died. I received a phone call on Wednesday January 16th from the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. He lived alone and was not married. His neighbor found him in his apartment. He had only been married to my mother for a very short time when they were very young. I was his only child. My mom re-married when I was still a baby and my step-dad became my father and I thank the Lord for him.
There is so much about his life that I could say, so many things that are difficult, so many things that are very sad. When the young woman from the coroner's office asked me the question, "do you know a insert here the first, middle and last name of my father?" I knew before she said her next sentence and even though everything in me knew that this moment was long over due, that he was gone. I wanted to scream "no!" "not yet" "I have questions I need to ask and things I would like to know." The kind young woman was patient and understanding of my place. I took deep breaths and tried hard to keep my composure but it was impossible. She gently walked me through the steps and carefully answered my questions between my own moments of weeping and wishing I had one more moment with him. I remember when my mom lost her mother. The crying coming from the other room that seemed to resonate from somewhere deep within her soul. I understood. But the sorrow was different. I cried for what I never had and what I always longed to know. I cried at the very thought of him being all alone in death. I cried as I thought that no one should die, leaving it in the hands of a county employee to search for your next of kin. I cried because through the choices he made throughout his life left him with no one and nothing. I cried because I did not know where he will spend eternity.
Over the next few days I prepared to make a trip to California. I wanted to go. I knew I needed to. I wanted to go to his apartment. I wanted to go to the coroner's and pick up his things.
My flight landed in Los Angeles early Sunday evening. I stayed with my in-laws in Orange County. Monday morning I drove to my brother's house and was welcomed by my two month old niece at the front door with a sign that read, "Welcome, Aunt Chris". It made me cry. She is beautiful and it was wonderful to see my brother and his wife with their first little bundle of joy.
My brother accompanied me to my father's apartment. There are so many details that I will not write here. There are so many things that I experienced that have changed me deeply within. All of my life I have longed to know this man. I walked through this tiny apartment with everything just as it was when he died, looking, searching for anything, something that would give a glimpse of what he thought or why he chose to live this way. I wish I could say that I found something. But I did not. Over the next two days I learned things that were hard to hear. I was thankful that most of what I did know was true. Some of it was still scene through some hopeful rosy colored lens of a young girl still dreaming that her daddy would call or come to see here. I walked down a street that others wouldn't dare, I went into a few places that others would have considered unsafe, I went to the post office just blocks from his apartment and stood in amazement at the two inch thick plexiglass that separated me from the U.S. postal worker. I sat in a small room behind more plexiglass at the coroner's building in downtown Los Angeles to receive his wallet, watch, keys and other personal items. I hugged the neighbor who found him. I took in everything I saw and experienced in some quiet hope of knowing just a little bit more about this man who I knew as "Daddy Jim." I returned to his apartment a second time in hopes of finding something before returning his keys to the apartment manager. I looked up at the three story apartment building in the bright California sun one last time before pulling away and driving off for the last time with tears streaming down my face.
He lived a life thankfully I have never known. He did things I will never fully know. Most would consider his life a waste. And in some ways it was, except that God chose him to be my father. And although I longed to know him, he made the choice to leave me alone. Alone to live what he never had. Alone to not see what he was or experience who he was. I do know it was intentional. I do know that he loved me.