A pair of shoes…

My dad died in his sleep on Thanksgiving morning, which was one of his favorite holidays. I got the phone call that morning from my brother and as soon as I heard his voice, I knew. While I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, I knew just from the tone of his voice as he said “Debbie” why he was calling. I wasn’t ready for that phone call. I guess I would never be ready for it. You can never prepare for losing a parent. While you know it will happen someday, you always assume someday is down the road. Losing my dad has been difficult. I will be fine one minute and then suddenly it hits me and sadness and grief rock me.

I had seen my dad ten days before Thanksgiving. My husband and I were going to be visiting two of our children and their spouses in Virginia for the holiday so we wanted to see my parents around Thanksgiving since we wouldn’t be there on the actual day. I remember my dad not looking quite right. As I hugged him before I left, I said, “Take care of yourself Dad. Your coloring seems off to me.” I told him I loved him and waved good-bye as we pulled out of the driveway.

I had no way to know that it would be the last time I would see my dad on this earth. I would have stayed a little longer. Hugged him a little tighter. Asked him to tell me a story from his childhood. Told him I loved him one more time. Thanked him for being a “dad” and not just a father. If only I had known… I would have said so much more.

Recently I was staying with my mom for a week, helping her as she struggles to find her way without the man who was by her side for over 54 years. I noticed my dad’s sneakers on the floor, next to the TV and close to his recliner. She said he took them off the night before Thanksgiving and she could not bring herself to move them. I have been unable to get those sneakers out of my mind. Those sneakers are a lesson to me. Actually to all of us.

I wasn’t there that night, the eve of Thanksgiving, but I imagine my dad taking off his shoes, sitting in his favorite recliner, turning on the TV (most likely channel surfing) and chatting and laughing with my mom, brother and his fiancé. He didn’t bother taking those shoes back to his room because he thought he would put them back on in the morning, excited about Thanksgiving and ready to eat all day long. How many of us leave our shoes thrown by the couch when we head off to bed knowing we will put them on tomorrow? Expecting there to be a tomorrow? Taking our tomorrows for granted?

But as my dad drifted off to sleep, he didn’t realize that God would be calling him home that night. He fell asleep on earth and woke up in Heaven. My dad didn’t have a tomorrow here but instead an eternity in Glory. He didn’t have a turkey dinner in Altoona but instead a banquet with the King of Kings. He went to bed with congestive heart failure, declining kidneys, diabetes and woke up whole, healthy and in the presence of Jesus. WOW! Can you imagine?

But the real story of the shoes is a reminder… a reminder that we do not know our last day on earth. We don’t know when we will take our shoes off for the last time. Or the last time we will say good-night to our spouse. Or the last time we will hug our child. Or the last time we will talk to a friend. We just don’t know those last times. So we need to make the moments count. We need to say “I love you” more often. We need to hug a little tighter. We need to put our phones down and have actual conversations. We need to stop rushing everywhere and start noticing those around us, whether it’s friends, family or even strangers. It seems cliche to say “time is fleeting” but maybe this phrase is overused because it is true. We aren’t promised tomorrow so maybe today is the day to BE

  • BE encouraging
  • BE forgiving
  • BE generous
  • BE gracious
  • BE compassionate
  • BE loving
  • BE honest
  • BE trustworthy
  • BE appreciative
  • BE genuine
  • BE patient
  • BE sincere
  • BE present

I miss my dad. I always will. He taught me many lessons during my life and with a simple pair of shoes, he’s still teaching me.

Mom, thanks for leaving those shoes where Dad left them. I know this is the hardest thing you have ever endured, yet you continue on with grace, showing all of us the true definition of strength. I am blessed to call you mom and friend! I love you!