Friday, February 13, 2009

Contemplating Tomorrow: Turning 63

This is the oldest photo I have Daddy and me.

You may have noticed that I have been spending much more time referring to my birthday this year than I have had in any of my previous four years of blogging. When I began to realize how much I was writing about February 14th, I asked mu self, Why? After contemplating that why, I finally came up with the very simple answer.

My father was 63 years old when he died.

That was twenty-five years ago. I had resigned from my position as a county social services supervisor for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, put my house up for sale, loaded what belongings we could fit in a five-room dormitory apartment, and moved to Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. (Actually Ed is in Webster Groves, but only someone who is from St. Louis would pay any attention to that).

In October, seminary students at Eden had a week free of classes dedicated to catching up on the massive amount of assigned readings that no normal person could otherwise complete. When my relatives learned of that, my father, mother, sister, and an aunt decided to visit us for the weekend that ended reading week. They rented a huge automobile—I don’t remember the brand—and drove from Louisville to St. Louis.

Since my father had had several strokes which left him partially paralyzed and had had his right leg amputated just below the knee due to complication caused by sugar diabetes, he was unable to make it up the steps into our apartment. While the others were inside, he sat alone in the car.

At times I went outside and sat with him. Since talking was difficult for Daddy, we didn’t converse much. We just spent time sitting with each other. Of course, we all were together when we drove around St. Louis, ate at restaurants, and when Daddy took my sons, Nick and Rob, shopping for special gifts. Daddy bought Nick III, then about eleven, his first computer—a Commodore—which set him on the track of his life-long profession.

I was sad when they returned to Louisville. As the others packed and checked out from their motel, I helped Daddy down a short hallway to a side door, outside of which their rental car was parked. While helping him into the car, Daddy said something to me that he had seldom expressed. He said I love you. Then he smiled and said, I am happy that you are here. You should have gone to seminary many years ago.

Those were the last words my father ever spoke to me. Forty-eight hours after he left St. Louis, he was dead.

As I enter the age at which my father died, I have been thinking about him and his life. I wish I had spent more time with Daddy. I wish that… Well, I think you understand.

Becoming sixty-three has led me to a time of contemplating my own life and mortality. And that is why I have been thinking and writing so much about tomorrow, the day I enter the age at which my father died.


  1. Wow. So tomorrow is quite a significant mark for you. How awesome those words must sit with you today. You have not only your birthday to celebrate, but the entire day of "love" to say cheers to!

    This was such a heart-felt and beautiful post, Nick. Thanks for sharing!

  2. How greatly we feel our mortality through our parents.

    It is wonderful you had that day with your father. I remember back on an event with similar significance for me, and I can empathize. There is never enough time, is there, to do and say all we wish we could. I look back and I'm thankful I had the time I did, insufficient as it seems now.

    Nick, I wish you a happy birthday full of good memories and jubilant hope for the future. Peace.

  3. Happy Birthday, Nick. Your account of that final visit with you father is one of the most poignant posts I've read recently. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Like you, I have been reflecting on my growing older (my birthday was last Sunday) and my parent's aging as well. My mother was recently diagnosed with Alzheimers at the age of 76, and my father is 86 and feeling the years as he struggle to take care of her.

  4. I have tears in my eyes. That was so beautiful. How wonderful were his last words to you. There was nothing harsh, just love.

    My father was 60 when he died. Way too young.

    I hope this is good year for you. 63 is still young. :-)

  5. Up until this point, you had something to meausre yourself against; you could compare your life with your dad's and see how you compare, what you might come to expect as you age, what, even, you might look like at 63. Tomorrow begins uncharted territory-you have no road map. I think it natural to be more introspective now than beofre; you have no idea what tou expect, and oyu miss your daddy. Blessings to you for a wonderful, full, happy birthday.

  6. Thank you for sharing, Nick. And may you have a blessed Birthday :o)

  7. Nick, your story has really touched me. Thank you for telling it.

    I hope that you have a very happy birthday.

  8. I'm glad your father said those words in time.

    I'm glad you're still here, Nick. Many happy returns!

  9. That was a very moving post m'dear. MWM's father died aged 39 and MWM was in a bit of a panic until he reached 40.

    Happy Birthday for tomorrow. :)

  10. Seems like an ideal time to begin living in 'the now'- the only time we have complete control over anyway!

  11. I am glad that you and I are on the planet at the same time, Nick. No matter whether you or I live to be 63 or 73 or 103, you have enriched my life. Thank you for that.

    Those are some beautiful words that your dad spoke. He gave you a gift that can't be taken away.

    Peace, Love, and Happy Birthday!

  12. That was a lovely tribute to a father from a very loving son, Nick.

    I wish you a very happy birthday although it has these sad overtones for you. But think of your father in peace now, whole and healthy. He will be wishing peace and a happy birthday to you also, Nick.


  13. Very touching post, Nick. What a great year to reflect upon your father. I am glad you got to hear him say those things that he did when you last saw him. Have a great birthday tomorrow, my friend.

  14. Nick, thank you for sharing your very touching story with us. May your special day be filled with joy and contentment. My Hubs BD is the next day. Looks like lots of special folks are born in Feb. Smile...

  15. That's a moving story, Nick.
    I hope your birthday I good to you and your 64th and onward, too.

  16. Dear Nick ~~ Happy Birthday, my friend. I hope you have a great day.
    What a treasured memory of your father's last words. I am so glad he got to say them to you. I have posted your birthday as your 62nd
    Sorry for the error. Happy day and a happy life ahead of you.
    Love and best wishes, Merle.

  17. We do have influences that make us reflect a little more on our own mortality, sometimes to a state of worry. Your father, I am sure, wouldn't want you to walk this path too long for certain. It is difficult to reflect and not dwell.. i hope you find the line and simply remember.

  18. Have a very happy and joyful birthday, Reverend Saint.

  19. It's wonderful your father's last words to you were so significant. Almost as if he knew his time was short...

    Happy Birthday and may you have many more years to come!

  20. Birthday greetings for tomorrow.

    I, too, have reached that point of wondering about the ancestry of longevity in my own family, as well as wellness. I just stay busy and not worry about it. The 70 mark rolls around for me in April. While there has been good longevity on both sides of my family, there have been some marked exceptions. My maternal grandfather lived alone in a downtown apartment until six weeks before he died just a few months shy of 100. However, my grandmother on both sides died at much, much younger ages. Fortunately, my mother lived 89 years and my dad lived 80 years. I have always accepted my 99-year old grandfather's viewpoint of growing older..."we all 'wear-out' at different times and we just don't when." Aging, graying, tri-focals, etc., have just never been that important to me.

    Again, birthday wishes from AZ.

  21. A big ol' Happy Bagwine Birthday to you Nick. I hope you enjoy your day, my good man.


  22. We hope you have a very nice birthday, Saintly Nick!

  23. I haven't been around for awhile but I'll sure stop in to wish you a happy birthday. And I hope you have many, many more!

  24. Hey, Happy Birthday young man (my great grandfather passed away shy of 100 and said anyone younger than 80 was a spring chicken) and, although sad about the past, chains to the past if so, are not good for looking forward.

    Never forget, but always keep walking forward with a smile ; )


  25. Bless you, Saintly Nick!

    The world is a much better place because you are in it.

    Happy Birthday!

  26. I was 14 when my father killed himself. That was over 50 years ago. His death still haunts me.

  27. You are only a youngster compared to moi and I'm heading for yet another number hahah

  28. I feel so emotional reading this post.

    I empathise with your feelings ... my father died when he was 55 - he had had a stroke when he was only 45.

    3 years ago, I was the same age as he was when he died. He never got to be the age I am now.

    Sending love.

  29. My birthday celebration is over. It is time for me to begin responding to the splendid comments you all made to this post.

    Deb: Thank you. Following my father’s death, I reflected many times on those final moments that I spent with him.

    Lynilu : Thank you. I believe that your words reflect a great truth.

  30. Tarheel Rambler: Thank you. The first of my relatives to experience Alzheimer’s, my Aunt Ann, perplexed me.

    Lynilu : Thank you. I believe that your words reflect a great truth. However, when I learned that even with her short-term memory loss she still retained vivid memories of her childhood and youth, I was amazed at the stories she told and what I learned from her. It was a strange blessing for me.

  31. Squirl: Thank you for your words—and your tears. Yes, 60 is much too young to die, as is 63.

    Kori : Thank you. You are so very right. Now that I am the age of my father at the time of his death, I have entered unchartered waters.

  32. Rebecca Reece : Thank you. You are most welcome.

    Abby: Thank you.

  33. Thomas : Thank you. My father’s last words to me were unexpected and brought tears to my eyes when he spoke them. That his death followed so quickly after he spoke those words mystified me until I realized that perhaps those were words he felt he needed to say before he died.

    Akelamalu : Thank you. 39 is such a young age to die! In understand MWM’s apprehension about being 39 and joy at reaching 40.

  34. jinksy : Thank you. Oh, I do live in the present moment and have for many years; however, that really gives me little control over anything!

    Carol : Thank you. I so appreciate your words; I, too, appreciate you sharing the time in space in which I live for you have added much to my life.

  35. Puss-in-Boots : Thank you. Hugs back to you!

    Puss-in-Boots : Thank you. It did turn out to be a very nice birthday.

  36. Finding Pam : Thank you. I hope that your Hubs had as grand a birthday as I did!

    Jean Marc : Thank you. I do hope that this is a good year for me and for the world.

  37. Merle: Thank you. 62 or 63, it really doesn’t make that much difference, does it?

    Mary: Thank you.

    I must pause here. It seems as if Blogger isn't posting this post.

  38. Xmichra : Thank you. No, I don’t believe that Dad would want me to follow his life. He began having strokes when he was in his fifities and diabetes took his leg even before that.

    Azsonofagun : Thank you, Reverend Rex!

  39. Mauigirl : Thank you. I believe that you are right: I think my dad did know that he was approaching death and the trip to St. Louis to see his grandsons and me was one of those final things he needed to do before he could let go.

    Jim S : Thank you. I concur with your grandfather’s statement that we all wear out at different times. How much is genetics, how much is environment, and how much is lifestyle I don’t know, but I suspect each plays its part.

  40. Fiochra : Thank you.

    Matt-Man : Thank you. I hope I enjoy my birthday as much as I enjoyed yours!

    Kanga n Roo : Thank you, dear marsupial friends!

    Micky-T : Thank you. I appreciate you dropping by to wish me a happy b’day.

  41. Coffee Messiah : Thank you. Then I suppose I’m still a “spring chicken!” Thanks for the words.

    China Girl : Thank you. I sincerely appreciate your words.

    Anonymous : I am sorry for you—and for your father. I can understand how your father’s suicide can still haunt you even after 50 years. Blessings to you, my unknown friend.

    i beati : Thank you. I hope that you enjoy your next birthday was much as I have enjoyed mine.

    dancingonabladeofgrass : Thank you for your words. I truly understand how reaching and surpassing the age at which a loved one died can impact us.

  42. From Dylan Thomas:
    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.