My youngest sister called yesterday and asked what I was doing Sunday. When I asked why, she invited me to join her for a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner. My heart quickened, forcing a lump to emerge in my throat. I was moved and the invitation was perfect.
I have been wondering for weeks how I should spend February 15th. I began playing “Lyle Lovett Radio” on Pandora. I started looking at pictures and re-writing last year’s love letter. I was noticing things – like the Christmas package from Mom that I hadn’t put away – filled with his things. My garage door opened on its own one day without any explanation and later I heard music from a music box echoing sweetly through my house. I don’t have a music box.
My oldest sister got a memorial tattoo. My mom sent a beautiful card with a special keepsake enclosed.
Then another peculiar thing happened. My healing left ankle, which I broke six months ago, began to be extremely sensitive to touch. The skin hurt as much, if not more than, the joint pain. Even the soft fleece lining of my favorite Ugg slipper was too much contact. The covers on my bed, the hem of my jeans, the cushion of the chair, everything was causing me a different kind of agonizing pain. I would look at my skin and inspect my ankle. I would hold it softly and try to comfort myself. I rubbed lotion and a healing ointment on it. I witnessed myself kicking the covers off at night and hanging my left leg out. And then there was the night…
Every night this week I woke after a brief time of slumber. Just a few hours into my sleep I found my self wide-awake and alert, unable to return to sleep. Why? What was different?
The Kentucky Fried Chicken invitation shifted everything and woke me to an epiphany. I was re-living the last days of my dad’s life. My three sisters, mom, and I were with him during that last week one year ago. I didn’t sleep much during the nights. I was awake often and took my turns sitting quietly by his bed in case he needed anything. His comfort was important and the pain in his left ankle accelerated as time passed. He couldn’t stand touch, or even a light cover, on that ankle. He often had his left ankle sticking out of the covers on his bed. When the dog or cat bumped it, he grimaced and let out a howl.
On Valentines Day, we listened to his favorite music, laughed, told stories and talked on the phone with family members back home and in Wyoming. Everyone was sharing the love and expressing it openly. My dad loved Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was his favorite meal. That evening, friends generously brought him a feast from KFC. We fed him and joked around with him as he was saying the funniest things. We even began writing them down so we could remember. It was a beautiful day of love and that was his last supper. We had our own blessed, intimate Eucharist just one day after the pastor delivered Holy Communion to his bedside. That night we communed with a sip of his favorite beer, biscuits, his favorite chicken, a deep profound love, family conversation, lots of laughter, and a sweet abiding faith.
One year later, as I sit here listening to his favorite music, I am reminded of that last sacrament and how divine grace filled the room, nourished our hearts, and sustained us during the next twelve hours and over the past twelve months. The benevolent presence of the Christ Light was real and palpable that Valentines Day and evening. It was a precious gift of the ultimate LOVE in life and in death.
I’m looking forward to Valentines Day tomorrow and a Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner this Sunday. Thanks, Dad. I love you.