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Jun18ThuFond memories of my dad—and the hope of heaven—bring peace and comfort. June 18, 2020 by Oren Cole
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In my growing-up years, the most influential adult in my life was my father, Major Ross H. Cole. When my parents retired in 1958, I was eight years old. We moved to South River, N.L., a quiet little town about 65 kilometres outside St. John’s. By this time, my siblings had left home—my oldest sister was married, and my brother and other sister were teaching school in other parts of the province—so I felt like an only child. I spent hours with my dad. Life was simple then; innocent, secure and full of dreams. I can still vividly recall scenes that bring a smile of contentment to my soul.
My dad built me a small “speed” boat. It was about three metres long and powered by a Johnson 5½-horsepower outboard motor. He soon taught me how to handle it with complete confidence. That little boat took us out into the saltwater bay where we would jig for codfish, but Dad’s favourite outing was to take the boat to Aunt Susanna’s Pond to fish for trout. We trolled for mud trout or rainbow trout, the best species for eating. The odd time we hooked one of those ever-present ornery eels, which gave me the creeps—not only when reeling it in, but especially when trying to take it off the hook.
My dad and I had many conversations as we sat at either end of that boat, early in the morning or late in the evening. We caught fish, laughed together and discussed life, but mainly enjoyed each other’s company. I didn’t know the word back then, but now I realize that those times resulted in a special bonding between the two of us. One thing I did know was that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like my dad, the man I admired most of all.
To this day, when I visit Newfoundland and Labrador and drive by Aunt Susanna’s Pond or see the waters of the Atlantic just down the road from my boyhood home, my mind wanders back to the many times I spent with Dad—the comfort of his voice, the feeling of his affection and love. With my dad nearby, there was never any need to be in a rush; things were well under control and we always had time to talk.
Even now, on those still and quiet evenings when the sun is setting and I am near a pond or river, I can visualize Dad’s silhouette, his white hair with the brush cut and that oh-so-gentle smile. And if it’s quiet enough, I can hear him clear his throat, which he often did—that’s how I found him in a crowd. If I listen hard enough, I can almost hear him laugh.
My dad died several years ago. By then, I was a grandfather myself. I remember going to the burial and standing by the graveside after the crowd had left, as the men started throwing dirt into the grave. I watched as the seagulls played nearby and listened as the waves crashed against the rocky beach. And I cried my heart out.
Then I remembered one of our discussions from the boat, when we talked about death. I had a hundred questions, and most of his answers brought comfort—except when he said he looked forward to heaven. As a young boy, I didn’t want to hear that. I never wanted my dad to die. The thought brought a lump to my throat.
But standing at his grave, I knew his longing for heaven had been fulfilled. I was comforted by the thought that the Lord was giving my dad exactly what he wanted. Somehow it lessened my grief.
I walked across the road to the edge of the seashore and looked out to the spot where we had gone cod fishing so many years before. As my tears dried, I stood there and read a passage from the New Testament—the promise that when the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will rise, and then “the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master … And then there will be one huge family reunion” (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 MSG).
Oren Cole is the corps leader in Brampton, Ont.