OPINION: The colors of grief

Columnist reminisces on the loss of his father.

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

For the Reporter

Nov. 4, 2008 was indeed a red-letter day for our nation… and for me. That was the day the first black American was elected to the White House. It was also the day my 82-year-old dad died.

As I stood by his bedside and watched the color fade from his face, I held his lifeless hand as it grew cold. Nausea filled my gut as tears rolled down my cheeks. The father who had introduced me to baseball, basketball and golf was the same one who had taught me how to pray. My father’s death changed my life forever.

On this 10th anniversary of my dad’s passing, I can personally attest to the profound impact of a father’s death. I can easily recall the spectrum of emotions associated with what I have termed “the colors of grief.”

The green of envy

After my dad died I was more keenly aware than I had previously been of men sitting at a sporting event with someone whose physical characteristics indicated this was definitely his dad. I would become momentarily overcome by a strong desire to be sharing my life with the one who helped bring it about.

Although my relationship with my dad was not perfect, it was close. My dad served as my financial advisor and spiritual mentor. He celebrated my gifts and took pride in my accomplishments as a writer and pastor. I could talk to him about almost anything. Seeing others with their dads caused me to long for what I can’t have.

The purple of the early morning

One of the colors of the rainbow that overarched my grief was purple. It is the dark purplish color that emerges from the dark horizon just before dawn. As I navigated life without my dad, the early morning hours would remind me of him. For as long as I can remember my dad greeted the day by communing with his heavenly father.

My dad spent the first hour of every day with an open Bible in his lap and a pen in his hand. His example of a non-compromised quiet time motivated me to take my relationship with God seriously. At his memorial service I preached from that well-marked volume that documented his life.

The gray of everyday

My spectrum of grief also included gray. When I lost my dad, there are so many details to take care of, I was numb to what I was feeling inside. But soon the normalcy of daily routines returned. The fog of grief lifted only to reveal a dull overcast overhead. Something wasn’t the same and I sadly recognized it never would be.

When you lose your dad, life seems drab and colorless. The person you looked to for affirmation is gone. That person who cheered you from the sidelines is missing. The one you could always call for advice will never answer the phone again.

The gold of heaven

Gratefully, the colors of my grief are not limited to green, purple and gray. They include a golden hue. While there are no words that can adequately describe the unique grief men experience when their fathers die, there are three words that describe the hope men have when their fathers were followers of Jesus. Streets of gold. The Book of Revelation describes the city streets of heaven as being paved with pure gold (Revelation 21:21).

While there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my dad, I have to admit that I am more fascinated in the topic of heaven than ever before. Knowing that I will see my dad again dulls the ache. The gold of what’s to come overshadows all the other colors my dad’s death brought to mind.

The Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the full-time chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island. He is the faith and values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter and contributes original poetry each Blue Friday to KOMO news radio.

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