15: Golf Balls in Heaven

15: Golf Balls in Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

Golf Balls in Heaven

One of the most fascinating things about golf is how it reflects the cycle of life. No matter what you shoot—the next day you have to go back to the first tee and begin all over again and make yourself into something.

~Peter Jacobsen

My dad first taught me how to golf when I was three years old. He was an accomplished golfer and had a room full of trophies to prove it. Unfortunately, I can attest that golf skills aren’t always passed on genetically, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Dad would take me out to the driving range on most Saturdays in my childhood, and he eventually started taking me out on the course with him as well. And while our driving range experiences felt to me like forced practice sessions, the days I spent with him on the course were the ones I looked forward to. Since Dad ran his own business and worked long hours, he didn’t have a lot of spare time, so it meant a lot to me when I would have him all to myself out on the course for nine or eighteen holes. So much of the best of our relationship, from the mutual encouragement to sharing the little victories together, was forged on the golf course.

I’ll never forget one summer during my junior high school years. Twice a week, Dad would wake me before dawn and we’d head off to Glendover, the local municipal course that my mom had helped save from developers a few years earlier. Those dewy mornings, when we were the first golfers to walk the course together, are things of beauty in my memories of Dad.

Dad died suddenly and unexpectedly of an aneurysm on June 9, 1999. My wife and I had a golf date set with him for the Fourth of July. It was a difficult time for the whole family, but arrangements for the funeral had to be made nevertheless. As we discussed what to do about my dad’s final resting place, we weighed several options, including the cemetery outside of town where some of our family members were interred. Just then my mom and sister had the same idea: Wouldn’t it be great if Dad was buried in a cemetery close by so we could visit him as often as we wanted? Well, the only place close by that we knew of was a private cemetery that we thought was full.

I called them on a whim the next morning. A delightful woman, whose family had managed the cemetery for years, informed me that contrary to popular belief, they had plenty of space. She went on to tell me of the beautiful mountainside setting, the amazing views, and “Oh, by the way, we’re right next to a beautiful golf course.” I took it as a sign, and made an appointment for all of us to meet with her the next morning at the cemetery.

The sky was a clear blue as we pulled into the picturesque grounds. We immediately noticed the golf course adjoining the property and the driving range that actually bordered one side of the cemetery. My eyes followed the fifty-foot-high net that protected the grounds as it ran up to the tee area of the range, and I noticed that it was devoid of life on this early weekday morning. As the caretaker reverently guided us through the headstones, we quietly talked about what a beautiful setting this was. What little doubt remained about this being Dad’s perfect resting place was erased a moment later. As our guide brought us to a halt in what we later agreed was the most beautiful spot in the cemetery, she gestured to the area she had in mind. And as she pointed to the spot where my dad would spend the rest of his days, a single golf ball fell out of the sky and rolled to a stop. We all looked back up toward the tee area, and seeing it was still empty, knew that Dad had given us his approval.

After the funeral service a couple of days later, our family gathered for a very special and private final farewell. We opened Dad’s casket and gave him back the golf ball he had used to let us know he was still with us. We love you, Dad, and hope you’re in a place where the fairways are always green and your scores under par.

~Mark Donnelly
Chicken Soup for the Father’s Soul

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