My Father's Faith

Dad gave me one last lesson about hope.

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- Posted on Jun 22, 2009

Red and yellow tulips

My father was a religious man. When I was growing up, he loved to drill me on his definition of faith. He would start off by saying, “Faith is…” and expect me to finish with the correct answer, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” This little exchange of ours went on for more than 20 years. Now Dad was in the hospital with chronic lymphatic leukemia. He didn’t have much time left. Our little mantra was the only thing I could think to say.

“Dad, faith is…”

Slowly he opened his mouth. “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen,” he said, weakly. I didn’t know what to say next. The substance of things hoped for… what did that even mean? My father was dying. How could I be hopeful for the future?

“What’s the difference between faith and hope?” I asked Dad.

He was silent for a moment, thinking. “You know those tulip bulbs I planted on the farm two years ago?” he began. How could I forget? He planted them as a Mother’s Day gift for my mom and they still hadn’t bloomed. “I have faith that they will bloom,” he continued. “That’s what bulbs do. What I hope is to be alive to see them bloom.”

“Me too,” I told him.

The next day, the doctors told us there was no more they could do for Dad at the hospital. We knew Dad wanted to spend his final hours at home, so my mother arranged for an ambulance to drive him. Our farm was an hour away, in a remote rural town, so I sat in the front seat in order to tell the driver where to go. Finally, after a quiet, dreary drive, I saw our house getting closer.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Dad, look...”

There in the flower bed were hundreds of fully bloomed red and yellow tulips, standing at attention after more than two years underground—the substance of what Dad had hoped for. The evidence of things unseen.

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