Tag Archives: Death

Big Fish – My Father’s Death: Take 2 (An excerpt)

It’s been a LONG time since I have written anything…

But in re-reading one of my favorite books that is full of many good stories and excerpts; I wanted to share one of my favorite sections here.

A fella by the name of Daniel Wallace wrote the following in his book, Big Fish.  “Big Fish” is a little book that chronicles the life and death of Edward Bloom from his son’s perspective. It is an incredibly imaginative tale and I enjoy the style and format of the book.

The section that I feel compelled to share is nearly the entire chapter appropriately named, My Father’s Death: Take 2. The setting is the son sitting beside his father’s death bed in the guest room of their home, and it reads:

Slowly we lose our idiot smiles and just look at each other, plainly.

“Hey,” my father says, “I’ll miss you.”

“And me you.”

“Really?” he says.

“Of course, Dad. I’m the one -”

“Still here,” he says. “So it figures that you’d be the one doing the missing.”

“Do you,” I say, as if the words were being willed by a force inside of me, “do you believe-”
I stop myself…

“Believe what?” he asks me, fixing me with those eyes, those small blue eyes, trapping me there. So I say it.

“In Heaven,” I say.

“Do I believe in Heaven?”

“And God and all that stuff,” I say, because I don’t know. I don’t know if he believes in God or life after death or the possibility that we all come back as someone or something else. I don’t know if he believes in Hell, either, or angels, or the Elysian Fields, or the Loch Ness Monster. We never talked about these things when he was healthy…

And I expect him to ignore it now. But suddenly his eyes widen and seem to clear, as if he were siezed by the prospect of what awaited him after his death – other than an empty guest room. As if this is the first time the thought has occurred to him.

“What a question,” he says, his voice rising full. “I don’t know if I can really say, one way or the other. But that reminds me – and stop me if you’ve heard this one – of the day Jesus was watching the gates for St. Peter. Anyway, Jesus is giving him a hand one day when a man walks shuffling up the path to Heaven.
‘What have you done to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?’ Jesus asks him
And the man says, ‘Well, not much really. I’m just a poor carpenter who led a quiet life. The only remarkable thing about my life was my son.’
‘Your son?’ Jesus asks, getting interested.
‘Yes, he was quite a son,’ the man says. ‘He went through a most unusual birth and later a great transformation. He also became quite well known throughout the world and is still loved by many today.’
Christ looks at the man, embraces him tightly and says, ‘Father, father!’
And the old man hugs him back and says, ‘Pinnocchio?'”

He wheezes, I smile, shaking my head.
“Heard it,” I say.

“You were supposed to stop me,” he says, clearly exhausted after the telling. “How many breaths do I have left? You don’t want me to waste them on twice-told jokes, do you?”

“It’s not like you’ve learned any new ones lately,” I say. “Anyway, this is sort of a best-of thing. A compilation.Edward Bloom’s Collected Jokes. They’re funny, Dad, don’t worry. But you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question?”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Hes lived his whole life like a turtle, within an emotional carapace that makes for the perfect defense: there’s absolutely no way in. My hope is that in these last moments he’ll show me the vulnerable and tender underbelly of his self, but this isn’t happening, yet, and I’m a fool to think that it will. This is the way it has gone from the beginning: every time we get close to something meaningful, serious, or delicate, he tells a joke. There is never a yes or no, what do you think, here, according to me, is the meaning of life.

“Why do you think that is?” I say out loud, as though he can hear me thinking.
And somehow, he can.

“Never felt comfortable addressing these things head-on… Who really knows for certain? Proof is unavailable. So one day I think yes, the next no. Other days, I’m on the fence. Is there a God? Some days I really believe there is, others, I’m not so sure. Under these less than ideal conditions, a good joke somehow seems more appropriate. At least you can laugh.”

“But a joke,” I say. “It’s funny for a minute or two and that’s it. You’re left with nothing. Even if you changed your mind every other day I’d rather – I wished you’d shared some of these things with me. Even your doubts would have been better than a constant stream of jokes.”

“You’re right,” he says… as though he can’t believe that I have chosen now, of all times, to give him this assignment. It’s a burden, and I see it weighing on him, pressing the life right out, and I truly can’t believe I did it, said it the way I have.

“Still,” he says, “if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that’s all you’d have: a bunch of doubts. But, now, see, you’ve got all these great jokes.”

“They’re not all so great,” I say…

His eyes close and I’m scared, my heart jumps,  and I feel as though I should get Mother, but as I begin to move away he grips my hand lightly in his own.

“I was a good dad,” he says. A statement of not unassailable fact he leaves hanging there, as if for my appraisal. I look at him, at it.

“You are a good dad,” I say.

“Thanks,” he says, and his eyelids flutter a bit, as if he’s heard what he’s come to hear. This is what is meant by last words: they are keys to unlock the afterlife. They’re not last words but passwords, and as soon as they’re spoken you can go.

“So what is it today, Dad?”

“What is what?” he says dreamily.

“God and Heaven and all that. What do you think: yes or no? Maybe tomorrow you’ll feel differently, I understand that. But now, right now, what are you feeling? I really want to know, Dad, Dad?” I say, for he seems to be drifting away from me into the deepest sleep. “Dad?” I say.

And he opens his eyes and looks at me with his pale baby blues suddenly full of an urgency and he says, he says to me, he says to his son sitting beside his bed waiting for him to die, he says, “Pinocchio?”

So there it is…
Does it hit you anything like the way it does me?

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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Book Reviews, Musings


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One Last Bed Time Story…

I imagine more folks would read this if I had posted it directly to Facebook, but it’s a little long for a simple status update.

I read this tonight and it really resonates with me:

“If the tumor was inside the cord, there was a less than one chance in a million I would ever walk again.  But as long as I could move my feet, the operation could wait till the morning…  I stayed up all night, moving my feet and thinking.  I was thinking about what counted and what didn’t.

Having ten thousand acres didn’t count.
Having seven thousand head of cattle didn’t count.
Having thirty trucks and twenty tractors and seven combines didn’t count.
Having a $5-million-a-year agribusiness didn’t count.
The pleasure of writing million-dollar checks didn’t count.

My family counted…”
(Howard F. Lyman, A.KA. The Mad Cowboy)

After listening to the D.J. on the radio this morning tear up while talking about how his son is graduating and all he (the dad) could think about was how badly he just wanted to read his “little boy” ONE more bed-time story… 

And another dear friend suffering the loss of an unborn today…

Wow, is all I can say, with sappy tears rolling down my cheeks…

Time is short.

It’s high time that we awake out of sleep and start redeeming what time we do have!

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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Musings


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A Conversation With My Deceased Dad

A Conversation With My Deceased Dad

Well…  You topped my Christmas tree this year.  Kimberly saw somewhere that someone used pictures of family and friends to decorate their tree and liked the idea – so we did it.  Since we think of you often we put you up top…  front & center.

It’s been eight years already, eight years today.  This one seems to have been the toughest for me.  I feel like I’ve spoken to you more this year than I did when you were alive – which makes me feel like a pretty crappy son.  But I imagine – or hope, maybe – that lots of folks have these conversations with their loved ones that have gone on.  And I imagine we all think we’re crazy.  Of course, crazy doesn’t bother me a bit – Ha!

Let me get right to what I wanted to say…

Thank You.
There’s no doubt in my mind you knew how much all three of us kids (four later on, counting Steph) loved and appreciated you.  You stepped in (no pun intended) when life went weird and always treated us as your own.  I still confuse people when I talk about my dads…  they never really know which one I’m talking about.  It would be easier if I referred to you as my step-dad I suppose, but I feel that would be incredibly disrespectful because we never were step-kids – always simply your kids.  (There was one time I referred to dad as my “real” dad…  and mom quickly asked, “Well, what’s Steve then?  Your fake dad?  Is he made of plastic?”  … so the world will just have to figure out who I’m talking about on their own.)
It had to be awkward and difficult for you too… Even if it never did seem to be an issue.  I love how you made sure we understood we just had a bigger family than most.  So – Thank you!

An Example.
Just so you know…  I don’t really remember much from before you.  Bits and pieces, maybe.  I’m sure I was old enough that I should remember more – But, my first real memory is the day you and mom woke us up while we were at dad’s house.  I remember all meeting in the living room and how weird it was to see you, mom, and dad together (I’m pretty sure their was a police officer there too – which was just as weird as you waking us up at dad’s house).  And then y’all explaining how we were going to go live with you and mom.  I really have no idea how I felt about it at the time, but it’s clear to see everything worked out just the way it was supposed to.  Your tact, your presence, your calmness about it all – well, again, just thank you.
I see so many broken homes and blended families today that are incredibly dysfunctional – where the kids are so much more grown up than the adults, where the adults yell and fight each other over trivial things…  and I thank God you guys didn’t act like that.

I have avoided regrets and live with very few of them.  Very few.  I really can think of just a couple – but one of them is that I didn’t go to your wedding in Texas.  Sure, I was working and taking off isn’t an easy thing to do.  BUT, for your wedding, surely my boss would have let me go – he was kind of a push over in many ways anyhow.  I can’t even remember why I thought it wasn’t a big enough deal to miss work…  I was just STUPID.  I had no animosity or qualm with you, the wedding, Kim & Steph…  Nothing, I just didn’t think – and I missed one of the biggest days of your life.  Sorry!  If I could go back and change it, I would in a heartbeat.

Holiday Wishes.
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.  Not just because it’s December, mainly because of some advice I’d like to get from you…  Although there are certain times of the year I can’t help but think of you:

Of course December is hard… December 27.  You held on through Christmas.  Man it’s hard.  I make myself put up Christmas lights, I force myself to get in the Holiday spirit – because as much as you pretended to put on a “Bah Hum Bug” front, you always made Christmas big for us.  So I want to do it for my kids too…  But you leaving two days after Christmas makes it difficult sometimes.

Every June…  your birthday, Father’s Day.  It’s ironic to me how you were born just 2 days after Father’s Day (and so every few years your birthday was on Father’s Day) and you were such an awesome father, yet you never had children of your own.

Every Thanksgiving.  Mainly because of our last Thanksgiving together.  How you knew it was the last, and so you gathered us all together.  I suppose I learned from my mistake of missing your wedding – I wasn’t missing it.  To be honest, I didn’t really believe you when you said you thought this may be your last Thanksgiving and you weren’t sure if you’d be here for Christmas.  When you took me to your bedroom, and told me how proud of me you were.  When you explained that you wanted me to take the rocking chair that you got for your first Christmas, and how you took care of it for your entire life – and you didn’t want it ruined, or abused, but you wanted my kids to have it and enjoy it – and you knew I’d take care of it…  We have.  I cherish that little chair.  The kids have just about grown out of it, but I plan on passing it down to one of them someday.

The Chair


So, that advice I mentioned.  You were always so big into working for yourself, and insistent on being your own boss…  You did it twice – creating your own business, even when you had to work at a job, you had something independent of that.  I’ve kicked it around and have an idea or two I’d love to try (no, dad – I won’t be leaving my corporate job anytime soon; this is something I can build while working my day gig), but don’t have the experience you had.  I wish you would have shared the nuts-and-bolts of entrepreneurship with me.  I was so proud of you when you opened the car lot…  I don’t suppose you wrote it all down step-by-step and left it lying around somewhere did you?  I bet you’d just tell me to go read so-and-so’s book too, but surely, you’ve got some great wisdom to share…

Family Update.
The kids are doing great.  Noah is 10 already – time is flying, he’s a pretty smart kid, but a bit like his daddy and going to get in trouble if he doesn’t learn when to quit joking and be serious.  Kaity, she was so tiny when you left… 8 years old now, and beautiful, and just as sweet as can be.  We had a third a few years ago – in June.  The due date was right around your birthday, so we were hoping to have her on your birthday, or Father’s Day.  She came on the 22nd, though, we named her Annabelle Stephanie Leigh – it was going to just be Annabelle Leigh, but we wanted to honor you.  She’s our wild child – full of fire…
I’ll have to let the others tell you how they’re doing.  It’s been a tough ride.

Yes – we’re still apart of that “cult.”  Although, I’m pretty sure you understand it’s not a cult anymore.  I remember when you told me, “Too many people die in the name of Jesus and God.”  My thought was (even if I couldn’t tell you at the time), “That’s more of an argument for Jesus than against Him…”  The very fact that people throughout history have thought so much about their Deity that they would willingly die for it tells me it’s pretty important.  You were always a pretty strong patriot – you always appreciated the military folks, and those that founded our nation because they thought so much about our liberty they were willing to die for it.

Trusting God is what has gotten me through these years.  I have no idea how folks do it without Him.  I can’t understand how people (as common as it is) blame Him, and walk away from Him when something like this happens…  I’ve been so grateful that He’s a big enough God that when I want to sob, and ask “WHY?”  He can handle it…  He can listen to me and not get angry with my ignorance.  Of course He understands pain and loss…

Gotta Go.
Anyhow, what’s done is done and there’s no changing it now.  You lived a short but full life…  You made a difference in at least 4 kid’s lives.  You were your own man, loved people, dreamed big.  I’ll leave all the judging up to the Judge.  

Someone (Uncle Gerry maybe?) keeps your grave looking nice – which made me proud since I don’t get to make it up there hardly ever…

The kid’s will be getting up soon…  So it’s time for me to make today the best day for them possible.  Tonight we’re going to go out to eat, stop by the church to pray, then take them, to see a cool Christmas Light display – the family that put’s it on collects food for the food bank, pretty cool deal…

Anyways, I love and miss you – and here’s one last picture – of Anna in your rocking chair…


Posted by on December 27, 2011 in My Life


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