Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Grampa, Doggies & Heaven

I've talked before about my faith when my mom died and how that was what got me through everything - knowing that my mom was in Heaven and that God had bigger plans for her.

What I haven't talked about yet was my feelings about my dad when mom passed away. So, a little background on that, before I write the post:

My dad was raised in a non-denominational Christian church. My grandparents (his parents) are very faithful. Religion is a part of their everyday life, but not in an obvious way. They say prayers, they talk about God & their church family, they often took my brother and me to church with them on weekends. But, for my dad, it was never part of his public life. I have no idea what was going on in his head most of the time while we were growing up (that's a whole other story), but I know he adamently refused to come to church with us on the weekends. He rarely came even on holidays. I actually only remember my dad in our church a couple of times (Mom, my brother & I were all Catholic) - first communion, confirmation and maybe a couple of family weddings. God & religion were just never part of his life, which lead me to believe he was seriously questioning his faith or that he wasn't a Christian.

So, when my mom died, one of my biggest fears was that my dad would die, and I wouldn't have the comfort I did with my mom. Would he end up in Heaven? I had no idea. Later, as my faith strengthened, I decided that yes, he would go to Heaven (for reasons I won't go into here - it's a personal belief not at all rooted in organized religion.)

Okay, there's your background. Here's the sweet story.

Last night, we went to dinner to celebrate Dad's birthday. Mike, my brother, Dad (of course), my nephew Michael (who is 4) & I were all there. At the end of the dinner, my dad was asking Michael questions and out of nowhere, Michael said "Grampa, can I go to your house and play with your doggies?"

My dad told him no, not that night, but the next time he came over they would be sure to play with the dogs. He asked Michael if he remembered how many dogs he had. Michael said, "3 Grampa. Karma, Penny and Snickers."

My dad teared up. He and I recently went to put Snickers down after almost 15 years of the best puppy companionship our family could imagine. It was a really awful day for both of us (Dad & I both have HUGE hearts when it comes to animals, especially our own.)

Now, my dad is not an emotional guy. At all. We laugh about everything and scream about a few things, but I've really only seen him cry openly twice. So, he choked back the tears and he told Michael, "No, buddy. Only two doggies now. Snickers went to be with God in Heaven. God must have needed a puppy to play with."

Oh, my gravy. It took everything I had not to cry. 1. What a sweet answer to give to Michael. He was perfectly fine with it by the way - his response was "Oh, okay Grampa," and went back to playing with his cars. 2. My dad used the same words to Michael that I often use about my mom - God needed both of them. I've never told my dad that I feel that way. 3. My dad does have faith in God and believes in Heaven.

My heart filled up with joy at that. My faith was confirmed. Such a happy & comforting feeling. Maybe the bigger purpose in Snicker's death - what God needed him for - was partly to give me comfort about my dad's futurue. Who knows.

It was such a sweet moment between my dad and my nephew. I'm really glad I was able to see it. When my mom died, one of the first things my dad said was "Well, I guess I'm going to have to be a better grandpa. I'm all Michael has now."

He definitely stepped it up last night :)

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