All Life Is A Gift: Remembering Joseph Patrick Lopez

(Kathryn Jean Lopez)

Today is my father’s birthday. It’s been a long time since I could celebrate it with him with a gift. I vaguely remember wanting to make a cake the first year after he died, just nine days into 2000. But I really didn’t see the point in it. I just wanted to mark the day as something beautiful, even in my raw grief.

I’m getting closer to the age he died (52 — I had no idea just how young that was in my early 20s). He dropped dead one Sunday morning, thinking he merely had indigestion — we found the antacids. It took me over a decade to have the courage to visit his grave. I thought I could somehow make it not be true. It’s funny how broken hearts operate. I remember our home area code changed, and I was enraged that he would not be able to call home and let us know how he was doing.

I never want to assume someone is in Heaven — I never want anyone to assume I am when I die. We are all sinners. But a friend from college who met my father — when we travelled from Washington, D.C., to New York City to pray with Pope John Paul II in Central Park — forever associates him with the Beatitudes. I love that and wish to emulate that.

He was a good father. I know I recognize the love of God the Father because I had a father who loved me so well. God the Father was good to bless me with the gift of Joseph Patrick Lopez. I write this because I always want to mark October 1 with thanksgiving for this man I love. And also to emphasize to all mothers and fathers: Your work of parenting is the most important work. Our culture may not celebrate that or encourage you, but it is true. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise. I wish I could hug him today, but instead, I will give thanks to God through the tears that still flow. (I wrote a little more about him here.)

What tremendous love! I’ve lived on this earth longer without him physically here than with him. And I still long for his presence. I don’t know how people live without faith. It’s only knowing God made us for Himself that ever keeps me going.

All life is a gift. Let’s be better at remembering that and living in thanksgiving for one another.

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