Two years ago today my dad died.
There's a lot that I could say that would probably be too personal.
There's a lot that I could say that would probably be too sad.
So I'll just share some thoughts from the heart and try to keep it simple.
My brother, Dennis broke the news to me that my dad died. It was 7:20 in the morning and I was doing my student teaching at Timpview High School. I could hear my phone vibrating off the hook in my purse. I knew something was wrong. Anytime your phone rings ten times at 7 am, you know something is wrong. I stepped out into the hallway to return the phone calls. I'll never forget how Dennis's voice cracked when he told me.
I left the school right away and rode down to Price with several of my siblings. That day is a complete blur of food, neighbors, hugs, and tears. But there's one part that is remarkably clear to me. Around four in the afternoon, I couldn't be in the house anymore. I couldn't feel the heaviness. Couldn't take one more tear. Couldn't see one more person look at me with that face that said, "I feel so sorry for you."
So I went for a run. I hate running. But there was something about the run that was almost cathartic for me. A great release of emotion and sorrow. I ran and I ran and I ran. It was cold outside, but somehow the cold numbed the pain. I ran past the spot where they had found my dad, I ran along the trail where he always went on his bike, I ran up dirt hills I'd never seen before, I ran without stopping, I ran until finally I came to a gate and a fence that would let me run no more.
And then I collapsed. I fell on the rock hard Carbon County dirt, and the tears came hard and fast. I pleaded with God. "Please don't let this be real. Please let me go back in time 24 hours. Please let me wake up from this nightmare. Please. Dad, come back. I'm not ready. I need you. Don't leave."
It's difficult to know what to say about such pain. There's nothing to compare it to, because the pain of unexpected and untimely death is in a league all of its own. I'd always been a daddy's girl and I loved him so much and no one had even bothered to ask if it was okay with me that he left.
I would have said no.
The funeral was beautiful. I'll always be grateful to my friends who travelled to the obscure town of Price to be with me that day. From Salt Lake, from Provo, even from Phoenix, Arizona.
Elder Hales spoke at the funeral. It is one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. He told us that my dad was prepared to go. That it was never in the plans for my dad to live longer than this. He told us that the veil was thin and that we could talk to dad at any time. That now us kids had two fathers in heaven.
Since that time, there have been many times when I have felt my dad's presence strongly. When I have felt his love, his support, his approval. When I have witnessed for myself that the veil, indeed, is paper thin.
The strongest and most powerful experience was the day of my wedding. From the second I entered the temple that morning, I knew my dad was with me. His presence was so strong that I was almost surprised I didn't see him right there, shyly grinning from the back row. During the sealing, tears rolled down my cheeks for the entirety of the ceremony. My dad was there. Everyone there knew it. The feeling was so strong it was almost tangible. He was sending me his love, his approval, telling me he was proud of me for everything about the decision I was making- the time, the place, the man.
There's so much that could be said about my dad and my relationship with him. The things he taught me, the example he was to me, the bond we had.
But I'll just share this one memory and then I have to stop. The summer I turned 16, I accompanied my dad down to Emery county every Tuesday afternoon to work at his podiatry clinic. I would change out his rooms, organize files, and get the patients ready to see him. For my strenuous labors he'd pay me $8 an hour.
I was learning how to drive a stick shift that summer, so I would drive to Emery and back, my dad in the passenger seat coaching, "Second, second, put it in second!" "Don't ride the clutch!" and "Bonnie, slow down! The speed limit's 50!"
Every week, without fail, we would stop at B.K's Stop and Shop on the way home and dad would buy a big cherry coke for us to share. I had both hands busy at all times, trying desperately to maneuver the ever-difficult stick shift, so my dad would hold the cup for me and move the straw to my mouth so I could have a taste.
And that's how we spent every Tuesday evening of the summer, driving home from Emery with a stick shift and a cherry coke. And for some reason, this is the story about my dad that I love the most. I don't know why exactly, but I guess it's because it just doesn't seem like there's anything in this world quite as tender as a girl shifting and clutching and steering while her dad, sitting shotgun, holds up a straw to her mouth so that she can get a sip of cherry cola.