“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.     Is. 55:8

I think everyone who reads this blog knows that my father, my well-loved daddy, passed away last summer.  He has been on my mind a lot this week and I wanted to share the following story with you. 

When I found out my dad was given 2-4 months to live, I asked the church to start praying that I would have an opportunity to speak with him about spiritual things.  My dad was raised Catholic and although I had spoken to him a few times over the years about spiritual things, I was unsure about whether he had a relationship with Jesus.  This seemed like the “right” thing to ask for.  Surely God would honor such a prayer.

Interestingly, the answer to that particular prayer was, most emphatically, “no”.  I have 5 siblings and all of them spent copious amounts of time alone with my father between his diagnosis and his death.  I was the only one who had no such opportunity.  Whenever I saw him, there were great crowds (ok at least half a dozen) of people in the room as well.  One day, I dropped my son off at his day camp and drove up to Michigan with my girls to spend a few hours with grandpa before we had to be back to pick up my son.  My mother had forgotten we were coming and was not home.  My brother was there and my dad was sleeping.  My dad woke up just a few minutes before we absolutely had to leave and it was just enough time to give him a hug and round the girls up into the car.  This was to be the last time I saw my dad while he was still capable of carrying on a conversation.

On the way home, I was crying out to God, “Oh, God, that would have been the perfect opportunity for me to share with Daddy about you.  You could have made that happen.  I don’t understand.”  Right at that moment when I was crying out, what can only be described as a wave of peace swept over me.  And God placed the thought in my heart.  “It isn’t up to you.”  Wow . . . . Ok.  I didn’t understand and I still don’t understand, but from that moment I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if it pleased God to save my daddy, nothing I did or didn’t do would change that.

The epilogue to this story is that a week or two later, the next time I saw my dad and the last time I saw him, he said to me, “I love you.” and “everything’s ok”.  Both of these things he said to me twice.

I don’t pretend to understand what all this means, but I trust God.  And I have great hopes of seeing my dad in heaven.  I do remember, one time, when talking to my dad about spiritual things, I offended him by suggesting that he did not really believe in Jesus.  I think, perhaps, God’s “no” answer to my prayer was to protect me from offending my father with our final conversation.  As it was, there was nothing but mutual love and respect in our final months together.

What follows is something I wrote for my dad’s funeral that was read by my brother.  I wish you could have heard him read it, because he did such a great job.

The Adjective

When I was in the fourth grade my teacher asked me what my father did for a living. I proudly announced to the class that he was an “Adjective.” It is the only time to my recollection that one of my teachers laughed out loud at me. She told me that can’t possibly be right. Outraged by her laughter, I insisted, “Oh yes, Mrs. Madison, he’s an adjective . . . I know.” After all, I was an Ybarra, I must be right. She chuckled again and gently suggested that I go home and ask him if he was an adjective.

At the dinner table that night, “Daddy, you’re an adjective, right?”

More laughter.

Then he explained to me that he was an advocate at the prison and not an adjective at all.

Huh.

My father held the title of advocate for a few years in the middle of his career, but the truth is that he was an advocate all his life. From his early years, as the eldest child, helping to raise his brothers and sister after his mother passed away, through the years with the department of corrections, to his work in his service club at the end of his life, he strove to speak for those who had no voice and supported causes that brought power to the powerless. He knew poverty and disadvantage and prejudice and he fought to eliminate and eleviate them wherever he came across them in both his public and private lives.

He taught us, his children, how to love people and to love causes that could bring positive changes for those around us.

I am so proud to be his daughter. And I only pray that I can serve and bless those around me the way that he did.

I leave you with some adjectives that characterized my father . . .

giving, faithful, strict, hardworking, overprotective, kind, caring, loyal, impatient, trustworthy, self-sacrificing, stubborn, accepting, knowledgeable, smart, honest, generous, responsible, curious.

Good-bye, Daddy.

Advertisements