The Mystery of Losing a Parent


It’s been some time since I’ve posted. And even now, though I speak publicly and privately each week in several settings, there is something about writing that requires stillness, and for now, it is very private to me: apologies to readers for the sound of silence. But . . . I will try to put thoughts to ones and zeros again.

It is a deep mystery of losing a parent, for me, for now, it’s pre-losing. Today I spent some time with my parents. Many of you know that my dad is dying of cancer and will soon be with the Lord. But I keep asking myself the same question, and the answer is like grasping wind in your hand. Elusive. Frustrating. Like a fog that settles in a valley, you look down into it from the top and you cannot see what is below . . . but here goes:

Today I drove around my home town by myself, after taking a swim at Salmon Run, of course. Then, down mainstreet, I begin to talk to myself: “grandpa repaired shoes just over there”; “. . . the old Ben Franklin store used to be right there . . . “; “. . . I love that old building” – as I drive up the hill on the backside of Old Main – my jr. highschool, and for many in my family, their highschool; “. . . memories cascade so fast I can’t keep up”; “the old band building, the red brick one, friday night football games, the band,  . . . the grade school – I peer into the window of my first grade class room with Mrs. Forren . . .” – “. . . that’s where Eddy hit me in the head with the baseball bat during recess – 6th grade – still have the scar”; up McKees Creek Rd – “grandma switched me right there – creepy old house on the left – dangerous curve – stop: memories flood over me . . . what happened to time? – gone – what am I feeling? – what is it exactly that is at the bottom of this melancholy? – I hate this – why does this hurt so deeply that I can’t even begin to get an answer because I’m not sure what the question is.

And there it is. It is the one of the most perplexing questions that face us, the anthropology of “Who am I?”

At least for me, the mystery of losing a parent puts pressure upon the conscience to answer this with more knowledge than I own. We have rightly lived our lives having our identity shaped by knowing who brought us into this world. There is a sense of security, oneness, belonging-ness, to-be-loved and return-love to the one person that you can say, “I am his son.” But what if he’s gone? It feels like a dimension of you dies when you lose a parent. The “Who am I? I am his son!” is now disjointed. This is why Peter Kreeft says that eventually in this life, we turn inward and wonder who we really are once we stop playing with our masks on other people’s stages (The Philosophy of Jesus, 7). Have I been playing on my dad’s stage, and when he’s gone, so is the stage, and so is my self-identity?

Not really, writes Kreeft. It just feels that way because we really have been blessed to have lived a long life in a loving relationship with the one person on the entire planet that explains, in part, our existence. And when that one person is gone, it feels . . . empty.

Thankfully, I do not have to answer my own question, Who am I?, for I cannot. Furthermore, the loss of a parent that mystifies life – literally, wrecks this neatly structured sequence, can also be answered, but again, not by me. I am finding a deeper comfort in Jesus, the “I Am” who knows who I am (John 8:75-58) – that’s the answer! That is, Christ is not my Answer Man, a means to my end – he IS the Answer (The Philosophy of Jesus, 40). Christ is the meaning of man. To attempt to know yourself apart from him who became flesh is illogical. If there is no God who became the self-existent I Am, then why the droopy face? Who cares?!?!? Besides, if you were not created by him then what explains why you even think about yourself . . . if you are by random, then so are your thoughts. But then again, you could not read what I am writing and put into logical order for understanding. But you are reading and you are thinking, and you are wanting to know yourself . . . aren’t you? You care who you are. So does Jesus. He cares enough to question you, “Do you know who you are? Do you know who I AM is?”

To live with the mystery of losing a parent is now cradled by knowing Jesus more fully, the one who transcends, who was before my parents, who will be here after they’re gone and after I’m gone. To know him who is “yesterday, today, and forever” is modest serenity, just enough until I am face to face with him. Who am I? I am a lover of Jesus Christ, who is the God Man, who is The Subject, never the object. I am the object whose identity is defined by the one who made me, made my dad, made his dad, and his dad, and . . . and . . . and


3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Losing a Parent

  1. Its still scary. Some how more so with a dad and his son and a daughter with her mom. I have seen both in Lynn, lost both and, seen it and felt it myself. It does drive you closer to Him and, for that I’m thankful but, it still hurts. It makes me think… ” Don’t think more of yourself, don’t think less of yourself. Think of yourself less” Kinda wish I had thought that one up.

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