Dad chokes on the phone when I tell him I’ll be taking him to church on Sunday.
“That’d be a very good birthday present for me, dear,” he says afterward, “I’d really enjoy that.”
The last day of January 2015, Dad and I are spending another exciting Saturday night watching the Murdoch Mysteries on TV.
“Am I turning 85 tomorrow?” asks Dad.
He hadn’t planned on making it past 81, so he’s well chuffed with himself.
Sunday morning, Dad shouts for me to answer the phone while I’m in the shower. Mum’s calling from England.
“She called to talk to me, not you,” says Dad when I ask him later if she’s going to call back.
“The roof might come down when you enter the church,” says Dad on our way to the car.
“The roof seems to be holding up okay,” he says looking up at the little, old church ceiling from his back corner pew.
The service begins.
Dad drops his cane on the floor and makes a loud noise. I look at him and he holds out both hands like a child would his mother under the threat of trouble. Then, he starts looking around and practically whistles as if he has no idea what I’m looking at him for.
We stand and sit as the hymns and prayers dictate.
The pastor straps on a sweet acoustic guitar and the congregation sings ‘Happy birthday’ to Dad.
He looks awkwardly touched by the sudden attention, but then joins in on the last line.
“Happy birthday to me,” he sings and then adds, “Thank you very much.”
When communion comes, I walk with Dad down the aisle. On our way back, the congregation watches as Dad takes advantage of the opportunity to hug and kiss all the ladies on his way back down the aisle.
Almost at the end, a man stands and hugs and kisses Dad on the cheek, erupting laughter in the whole place.
I burst into tears, the joyful kind.
We sing a final hymn, one of his favourites. And I envy his faith.
Go Now In Peace…Never Be Afraid.
God Will Go With You Each Hour Of Every day.
Go Now In Faith, Steadfast, Strong And True.
Know He Will Guide You In All You Do.
Go Now In Love, And Show You Believe.
Reach Out To Others So All The World Can See.
God Will Be There, Watching From Above.
Go Now In Peace, In Faith, And In Love.
Amen, Amen, Amen.