It made many trips down I-40 from Tahlequah to Pampa. It rode in the passenger seat of a red dodge pickup and when that vehicle wore out, a yellow Chevy pickup.
When he died, it rode in the back of my vehicle one last time along with the potted plants sent with condolences and a couple of cardboard boxes of belongings.
When we arrived home, it sat in the floor of the spare bedroom right behind the door. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I went about my day-to-day life and when I found time, I sorted through the cardboard boxes that had made the trip, discarding unnecessary things. But still, it remained.
When the spare bedroom began changing into a nursery, it sat on the floor watching while paint went on the walls, and office furniture was replaced with a crib. Like a child’s teddy bear with the eye missing and the stuffing coming out, it remained as a reminder.
It wasn’t valuable. It wasn’t decorative. It wasn’t useful to anyone. But it was such a part of him that I kept it around. It’s funny how when someone dies, their everyday things become such strong reminders of them. For my grandmother, it was a silver fingernail file that sat beside her chair. She probably used it every day. For my dad, it was a grimy, white Easter basket he used to carry his medication. An Easter basket. While other men have a satchel or a tote, or even a gallon size Ziploc bag, my dad used an Easter basket.
“Take one daily with a meal.” “For management of high cholesterol, take one each day.” “Take each morning and evening.” The instructions on each bottle kept him going for several years. High blood pressure, cholesterol, blood thinners, aspirin.
When New Year’s Day 2012 rolled around, sadness overcame me. A new year, a new beginning, only without him. Moving ahead, moving on, I knew I must. But I didn’t know how. And then I was reminded:
“For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—-and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 The Message
My dad no longer needed his pills. It was just a sad reminder to me of the temporary body that burdened him.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:7
On Monday January 2, I carried the basket to the dumpster and set it in. Don’t think I didn’t consider taking it out and bringing it back in the house throughout the day. I was home on Tuesday, the 3rd, when the loud roar of the trash truck pulled up. I heard the lifting of the dumpster, the bang of the lids as it flipped over. I imagined the dirty Easter basket and the bottles of pills scattering as they fell. I sat on the couch as the truck roared away, thinking of my dad and his new body. No longer sick. No longer burdened.
Today, he would’ve been 69 years old. He left this world February 26, 2011.
He is dancing.
Happy Birthday, Dad.
I love you.