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Dad's Workshop



Losing a parent is brutal. There's no other trauma like it. It's something children begin worrying about early in life, and that fear can follow them around forever - just under the radar perhaps, but always present. It was a hot July day as I sat in Dad's workshop. He had been gone almost a month, but with all the myriad things you have to do to "settle" matters, it seemed a lot longer than that. I picked up a chisel and wondered if it had come from his own father's workshop. It certainly looked old and worn enough. I felt such a heaviness, and kept brushing the unbidden tears aside. How could I sell his tools? It had to be done because Mom was going to move to the west coast to live with my sister, so all Dad's belongings had to be disposed of so she could sell the house. His big table saws, and lathes, and every tool he had acquired in over 70 years, many from his own father. Why was this the hardest part - disposing of his tools? Memories rushed in. Oftentimes I'd come downstairs and I'd ask, "so what are you working on now, Dad?" And he'd just grunt and say, "oh, not much." And I'd chuckle, because "not much" usually turned into beautiful bookcases, or stands with intricate designs, or carved ships with beautiful masts complete with rigging, or elegant birds in flight, which we would receive at Christmas time. When we'd express delight, he'd begin telling how imperfect each one is, but those imperfections were only in his eyes. Everything Dad built or carved was exquisite and flawless, the product of many, many hours laboring with his beloved tools. This was Dad's abode. This is where he lived, here in his workshop. When his day's chores were finished, down he'd go to his beloved space in the basement, to do what he loved best. I realized, that's why this overwhelming heaviness had taken over me - because these things I had to dispose of were such a real part of Dad himself. These were his treasures. This was his corner of heaven on earth. This was his heart. "Oh Lord, I can't do this. It's too painful," I grieved. "Help me." After several minutes, a thought began to surface in my heart. "Do, you remember," the thought began, "when you received the doll you called 'Ginny,' for your 8th Christmas?" Oh yes, I remembered. I had been so filled with anticipation that Christmas morning, hoping 'Ginny' would be there. I woke up in the wee hours, filled with expectancy. And sure enough, "Ginny" was there. I loved the smell of the plastic, it sort of smelled like baby powder. And her hair was so shiny. Oh yes, how I remember! "And when you were a bit older," the thought continued, "do you remember how you begged for a bicycle?" Oh yes! My blue bike with the gleaming chrome and the streamers hanging from the handlebars! It was on my 10th Christmas! How I remember the thrill when finally it was there - after hinting aloud for months that if I had a bike, I wouldn't care about anything else in the world and would be FOREVER satisfied. Of course I remember! "Yes, Lord, I remember these as the happiest memories of my childhood." "But you moved on," the thought continued, "you grew up. Things changed. By the time you finished your teen years, you no longer had any interest in dolls - other things took the place of them your heart. The joys of your youth no longer mattered to you, nor could they possibly have, because you had gone by those days, never to return to them. Other things so filled your heart that having a dozen bicycles or dolls wouldn't have meant anything to you at all." "That is so true," I mused. I had never thought about it like that before. It's amazing how what once meant so much to a person, can lose all its attraction when that person grows out of that stage in his or her life." "It's the same with your Dad." I sat back comfortably now, and began to mull this new thought. When Dad was here, these tools were the most treasured things in his life. But he's moved on. He's experiencing the glory of heaven, and now those tools in his workshop are as meaningful to him as a doll would be to me - they just no longer hold any interest in his heart, he's gone past that. At first I could hardly believe what I was turning around in my mind. The thought of this precious workshop losing all importance in Dad's heart was almost more than I could imagine. But I saw it. It took awhile, I had to ponder that one, but slowly the truth of it settled inside me. Doesn't the Bible tell us this? Yes! "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." Dad's eyes have seen things no eye on earth has seen, and his ears have heard things no ear on earth has heard, and delights have been experienced that no one on earth has even fathomed! Of course! These wood and metal tools that once were so precious to him carry no place in his heart anymore, any more than a doll would in mine. Other things have now replaced them. My heart soared into an attempt to imagine what some of those things must be like, but of course they are beyond what our limited minds could imagine in our life on this planet. How freeing these realizations can be if we let them. Yes! Yes! My heart became free to relinquish these tools of Dad's past, as I revelled in the new understanding that by going to heaven he hasn't LOST anything, but only GAINED. My heart soars at the thought of it. Someday we will be reunited there. But for now, I rejoice in thankfulness that God gave me a perspective in such a trying time, a perspective which set me free - not only to be able to make Dad's tools available to someone else without it breaking my heart, but in savoring the joy in my new-found understanding that death isn't loss, it's gain. And with the apostle I can say, "When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory."'