"Is this heaven?" she wondered, as she found herself stepping into the most elegant room she’d ever seen.
“Are you okay?”
My husband, Charles, put his hand on my shoulder as we got into bed for the night. “I’m fine,” I said. But I wasn’t. Not really. I hadn’t been okay for nine months, since my beloved father had died. Nine months, I thought. Nine months to the day.
Daddy hadn’t been well for a long time. Emphysema, multiple blocked arteries, quintuple heart bypass surgery, on and on. His end-of-life struggles haunted me.
I turned out the light and turned over in bed. I wanted to remember happier times. Like when we visited Newton, Alabama, where Daddy grew up. “You have to try an oyster,” he said to me, holding out a slimy-looking thing on a shell. “My brothers and I ate these all day long!”
I never did become a fan of oysters myself, but thinking about how much Daddy loved them made me smile.
In my mind I relived dancing with him on my wedding day, so handsome in his blue suit and signature dark-framed glasses. Although he was a draftsman by trade, music was his passion. Family lore said that as soon as Daddy was big enough to climb onto the piano bench, he was playing by ear. Any music at all—if he listened to it he could play it.
He saved up and bought his first piano when he was in high school—not bad for the hard-working son of a peanut farmer! I loved to hear him play at church and Sunday school. One week a new teacher tried to give him the sheet music for the hymn we were learning. “Don’t give me any music,” Daddy said cheerfully. “I don’t read a word of it. You all just start singing and I will join in.”
Sometimes on the weekends he played with a jazz quartet—Daddy on piano with a trumpet, clarinet and bass player. There he got to play his favorite songs, classics like “It Had to Be You,” “Sentimental Journey” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” People compared him to Floyd Cramer, a hall of fame pianist known for his Nashville style. But to me Daddy’s style was unique.
“You should have seen the place I was in last night,” he often said the next morning. Then he’d describe the club so I could almost see it myself: crystal chandeliers, white tablecloths on the candle-lit tables, the finest china and silverware.
How I wished I could see Daddy play in a place like that!
That’s the way I want to remember him, I thought as I turned over again in the dark. Doing what he loved in the loveliest of settings.
I wasn’t aware of falling asleep. I just found myself stepping into the most elegant room I’d ever seen—like no place I’d ever been. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings. Tiny round tables dotted the floor, each with its own glow of candlelight.
Music played. “It Had to Be You.” Right away I thought of Daddy—and then he appeared, standing there, young and strong. In such tip-top shape that even the glasses he so depended on were no longer needed. He wore the same dark blue suit he’d worn to my wedding.
I glided over the shiny dance floor, right to his side, and took his arm. “Daddy, will you dance with me?”
He didn’t reply with words, but I felt his comforting arms around me, real as anything. We danced and danced until the dream faded.
I awoke in my bedroom. Charles put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay?” he asked. “You were crying in your sleep.”
I brushed the tears from my face. “I really am fine now,” I said. How could I even put into words how fine I felt? How God had given me a glimpse of heaven and let me see my father whole and healthy one last time, all his struggles behind him. “Daddy’s fine too.”
I’d waited nine months for this reassurance. Nine months—it was perfect. Daddy was reborn in heaven and his new life had begun.
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