When I was in the middle of my college years in Oregon, I decided to change majors and move 700 miles back to southern California. My dad was still employed by the City of Los Angeles doing administrative work, so I lived with him and my grandmother while I started working and got my bearings. It was an enjoyable, interesting time. My grandmother liked having someone to cook and care for again, and I loved listening to her stories about her growing up years. It was also the first time my dad and I started to get to know each other as individuals. He patiently indulged me by listening to my techno dance music that I was excited about, and I accompanied him to services at the Orthodox Christian church he had recently begun attending. After a lifetime of devout Byzantine Catholicism, something compelled him to convert, and this was something he was excited about. So we did our mutual indulging, and we learned something from each other along the way.
Since I had grown up in southern California, I still had many friends there and got back in touch with them upon my return. I went to dinner with one of them and learned that his father had recently passed away unexpectedly. It rattled me, and I told my dad about it that night. He had met and talked with my friend’s father when we were in high school. My dad was saddened by the news, and what he said about it has stayed with me for over twenty years.
“It just goes to show that you never know when it will be your time to go. You have to be right with God.”
I’ve thought about that a lot, especially since my beliefs about religion and God have evolved over the years. I used to think, You don’t just have to be right with God. What about the people in your life? Don’t you have to be right with them, too?
I moved back to Oregon shortly after that exchange, having only been with my dad and grandmother for seven months. I celebrated my twenty-first birthday with them and, in a rare moment of clarity, somehow felt that I needed to finish my degree where I had started it. When I graduated two years later, I was pregnant with Nigel.
Life did as life does, and the busyness of it kept me preoccupied. Still, from time to time my dad’s iconic quote would pop into my mind, such as when friends or other family members died. Finally, after many years of mulling it over, I realized that if God is with us and in us, and we are all connected, then “being right with God” is being right with the people in our lives. It is the same concept, the same connection. It is all one.
Yesterday would have been my dad’s 70th birthday, so I thought about him constantly. I wondered how many years a loved one has to be gone before you stop missing them so much. It dawned on me that I would never stop missing my dad, and it’s because he was right with me. He was right with God, and he was right with me. And he’s still right with me, every day.
[image credit: embroidery.about.com]