From A Second Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul

Between the Lines

Love is something that you can leave behind when you die. It’s that powerful.

Jolik (Fire) Lame Deer Rosebud Lakota

After a moving memorial service for my beloved father, Walter Rist, our family gathered at our childhood home to be with Mother. Memories of Dad whirled in my mind. I could see his warm, brown eyes and contagious smile. I envisioned all six-foot-four of him in hat and coat, headed to teach his classes at the college. Quickly, a new scene flashed in my mind of Dad in a T-shirt, swinging a baseball bat, hitting long flies to us kids on the front lawn, years ago.

But special memories couldn’t push away the dark shadows of separation from the man we loved.

Later in the evening, while looking for something in a closet, we found a paper sack marked, “Charlotte’s Scrapbook.” Curious, I opened it. There it was—my “Inspiration from Here and There” scrapbook I had kept as a teenager. I had forgotten all about it until this moment when I leafed through the pages of pasted pictures from magazines and church bulletins. They were punctuated with clippings of famous quotes, Bible verses and poetry. This was me as a teenager, I thought. My heart’s desires.

Then I saw something I’d never seen before—my father’s handwriting penciled on page after page! My throat tightened as I read the little notes Dad had slipped in to communicate with me. They were love messages and words of wisdom. I had no idea when he had written these, but this was the day to find them!

On the first page, Dad wrote, “Life is never a burden if love prevails.” My chin quivered. I trembled. I could hardly believe the timeliness of his words. I flipped the pages for more.

Under a picture of a bride being given away by her father, my dad wrote, “How proud I was to walk down the aisle with you, Charlotte!”

Near a copy of the Lord’s Prayer, he had scrawled, “I have always found the strength I needed, but only with God’s help.” What a comfort!

I turned to a picture of a young boy sitting on the grass with a gentle collie resting its head on his lap. Beneath it were these words: “I had a collie like this one when I was a boy. She was run over by a streetcar and disappeared. Three weeks later she came home, limping with a broken leg, her tail cut off. Her name was Queenie. She lived for many more years. I watched her give birth to seven puppies. I loved her very much. Dad.”

My moist eyes blurred as I read another page. “Dear Charlotte, listen to your children! Let them talk. Never brush them aside. Never consider their words trivial. Hold Bob’s hand whenever you can. Hold your children’s hands. Much love will be transferred, much warmth to remember.” What a treasure of guidance for me as a wife and mother! I clung to the words from my dad whose gentle big hand often had held mine.

In those moments of paging through the scrapbook, incredible comfort was etched on the gray canvas of my life. On this, the day my father was buried, he had a loving “last word.” Such a precious surprise, somehow allowed by God, cast victorious light on the shadows of my grief. I was able to walk on, covered by fresh beacons of strength.

Charlotte Adelsperger

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