My father’s hands wore away the front and back covers of his Bible. The binding is cracked and if he were still around, I know that he’d eventually have it rebound. He took good care of his books. But I like it the way it is. If I’m not careful, the leather crumbles and sheds, so I’m careful. I always give it a kiss when I’m done reading it.
I discovered this morning where the frayed ribbon bookmark was last laid within its pages and three small tattered pieces of paper sticking out from the bottom of it. I suppose it’s common to only read one section at a time, but Dad always read from four. I feel my heart swell as I realize they mark the last time he read his Bible, and the final time he had held it.
I carefully open the Book to each section—Ezra, Jonah, Luke and Jude—finding the last scripture he had read—appropriately, the Doxology from Jude. To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
I imagine Dad’s head bowed in thought. I’d often find him seated in his chair, Bible in lap, either snoozing or praying–it was hard to tell which. Even though I stood in the same room with him, it was always apparent to me that I had brought him back from another place.
I can hear him clear his throat as he would before he prepared to speak. His fingers were long and bony—his hands sun spotted from sailing, with one nail deformed and cracked down the center. It never grew back the same and was always a reminder of the sailing trip that had ripped it out and sunk his Bible along with his boat.
Reminded of that, I turn back to the inscription written in the front of the Book—To my Dad the sailor, my hero. Shipwreck August 27. Presented on Sunday, September 1, 2002, with love, your daughter, Debbie—and cringe. Did I really have to remind him of that day every time he picked up his Bible? His sailing years had represented his keen ability to manage his sails in storms. “The LORD was teaching me something,” he would tell me later, implying his ultimate dependence was on Jesus, not on his own abilities.
“Where are you Debbie? Are you depending on Him?” I can hear him ask. Oh Dad. I return to the section I was reading and hear his voice read it to me, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21). “Yes, Dad, I am depending on Jesus,” I say in my heart.
I hope that one day my own Bible—notated, well-read and worn—will carry my spirit in it for someone I love, as Dad’s does for me. It sits zipped inside a red leather cover to hold it together, and is—for now—abandoned. I prefer to read from Dad’s.
I don’t know if he can see me but I do know that Christ stands between us—and by that we are still connected. And I know that the Bible is God’s Voice given to us, and as we read and live by Its Power and Beauty, I have the sense that our spirits connect with much more than we can ever hope or imagine while we’re on this earth. Dad has left behind a great gift.