Surely, This Cannot Be

March 3, 2018

Dear God,

I don’t believe in bargaining—theologically, that is.  I don’t believe that you would be so unjust as to favor a few children with a whim of a miracle based on their pious pleading, while allowing others to suffer in a mercurial world.  I don’t believe it, but I want it.  I want to beg, “please God, don’t let this cancer take him.   Of all those who have humbly served you, surely his kind and generous heart has called out and caught your notice.  You have to have seen his pure soul.  I know it shines.  Please, let him stay a while longer…..he’s my dad.”

What random act could I do to cosmically parallel his lifetime of meaningful acts and somehow strike a magic chord, a chord that would cure this rare cancer that has so far left no survivors?  How can I make that kind of music?

Maybe it would sound like “Finlandia.”  I remember stretching out on our long couch together on Sunday afternoons and starting out a nap listening to Sibelius on the LP.  That music is magic and always will be to me.

Maybe it would sound like his voice booming through a bad connection from half-way around the world asking his grown daughter “How’s my princess?” hundreds of times in hundreds of phone calls.  A ritual, almost rhythmic in its consistency, reminding me that, rather improbably, I am and always have been unconditionally adored.

Maybe it would sound like the rapid ticking of shuffling cards, the beginning of our family ritual of game playing together.  He’s not a poor sport, but by golly he likes to win, and we all love him for this incongruous bit of self interest.

Maybe it would sound like a pounding hammer, or a shovel striking, or the roll of a garbage can wheel as he looked for odd jobs to do when he comes to visit me.  “You don’t need to do that, dad!”  “I have to help out my little girl.”  It doesn’t matter that my hair is graying.

Maybe it would sound like the wind whispering through the pine trees in Yellowstone on one of our many vacations there, or his patient voice assenting to my suggestion to “drive just a couple more miles dad!  Please!  I think we’ll see a bear if we keep going”…and one year we did.

Maybe it would sound like the excitement in his voice, as he planned a lunch or dinner out.  His desire for bread with gluten in it always tempered by the care of making sure that everyone’s allergies and wants were taken into account.

Maybe it would sound like the peace as we sat and watched whales playing in the water right outside the front window of our vacation rental in Oregon a couple years ago…each of us periodically breaking the silence to say “this is amazing!  I can’t believe it!”

Maybe it would sound like my dad laughing and asking his Norwegian born mother “Hey mom, say ‘Willy Warbles Wiggles When he Walks’” and she would answer, laughing “Villy Varbles Viggles Vhen he Valks!  You boys, always teasing!”

Maybe it would sound like a soft cooing of “hey there, big fella!” his chosen words of affection for first my nephew and now my foster son….the adjective “foster” having no appreciable effect on my dad’s love.  The visual evidence for this being a photo my mom snapped of my dad a couple months ago with the baby on his lap as they carefully and seriously counted baby’s toes together.

Maybe it will sound something like the tears sliding down my face as I contemplate how the sun will possibly ever shine as brightly when this awful ordeal is over in the only way it can apparently end.

So, dear Heavenly Father….you sent me to this man…and I am who I am because of it.  How can he go?  Surely, this cannot be.




  1. Love you. This sounded familiar and painful and beautiful.

  2. Jerry Rahn says:

    Karen, and your Father, may GOD Bless both of your. I went thru this with each one of my parents. Reading go your letter brought the same feelings that I had. It also brought a smile to. You face also remembering each parent’s lives and how each had shaped me!
    Karen, death is part of life. If we have Jesus, in this life, we will always have life. God Bless You! Jerry Rahn.

  3. so emotional…loved it!

  4. You wrenched my heart. What a talent you have been given to write. One of my favorites here on BCC. Thinking of you….keep us up.

  5. All I can say is… keep singing, please keep singing.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Love to you; i’m so sorry for the heartbreak.

  7. This is so beautiful, Karen. And so heartbreaking. God bless that wonderful man.

  8. Beautiful and heartbreaking. I hope he sees this. (I hope that’s the right tense.)
    I have eulogized two father-figure men (so far) and I wish I had told them the same in person.

  9. Oh, my heart, Karen. This is beautiful and tender. Much love to you and your dad.

  10. Heidi Naylor says:

    Thank you for writing this lovely piece. God bless you and your family.

  11. Thanks for sharing this, Karen. I’m so sorry about your father.

  12. Rosalynde Welch says:

    Karen, what an earthquake in your life and the lives of those you love. Your father sounds like a true tree of life, and now I can see where your own warm heart learned its ways. I am so, so sorry for his illness and for what he (and all of you) will go through. May you find comfort wherever it is offered.

  13. Kristin Brown says:

    Thinking of you being so far away from your father at this critical time. How are you doing? It must be frustrating not to be able to drop everything and be there with your father. I know you are doing everything you can. Just a note of caring and concern.

  14. So beautiful, Karen. I am sorry about your dad. Your stories made me cry. Amy Stratford

  15. Thank you for sharing this online. I was so touched by your words and was hoping I could read them again! You are amazing and I love you and your family so much!

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