Voices: If Only Heaven Had Visiting Hours

By John Skipper

I have a large, framed charcoal drawing of my father on my living room wall. It was done in 1961 when he was 56 years old and I was 16. It is an excellent likeness—the suitcoat fitted neatly from his shoulders, the tie with the perfect Windsor knot, the white, short-cropped hair, the dark horn-rimmed glasses, the moustache, the lips that want to smile.

My father died in 1988. Now, nearly 30 years later, the drawing helps keep his presence close to me. His words, our shared moments, echo through the years. There was the time we went golfing, and Dad put the ball on the tee, swung, and missed three times.

“Boy, this is a tough course, isn’t it?” he said.

He had that kind of sense of humor, but he also had rules. For example, my brothers and I had strict curfews when we were growing up. If we were to be home by midnight, that meant midnight, not five after.

Whenever I knew I was going to be late getting home, I carefully rehearsed my excuse in order to have it down pat by the time I got in the door. My father would be in His Chair in the corner of the living room while I delivered my defense.

But after only a few words, he would raise his hand and say, “Look!” That meant my part of the conversation was over, and my only role was to listen to what he had to say.

As a young adult, I approached him one day with a problem I was having and sought his advice. After he told me what he thought I should do, I thanked him but told him I was going to take a different approach. I could see him smiling and saying to me, “You are very fortunate you live in America where you have the Constitutional right to be stupid.”

Thinking of that today, I smile.

I have to admit I still “talk” with him from time to time. We can have a conversation because no matter what is on my mind, I’m pretty sure I know what his response would be, and it would be good advice—or an admonition.

When a loved one dies, and after the initial grief subsides, if their memory makes you smile, that’s not a bad legacy.

A friend of mine posted a Facebook message recently in memory of her mother who passed away 11 years ago. She knew her mother was in a better place and didn’t wish her back on earth. But she lamented, “I wish heaven had visiting hours.”

I’ve discovered that God makes it possible for us to have “visiting hours” in wondrous ways.

For me, it is a charcoal drawing on my living room wall.

Editor’s note: John Skipper is a reporter and columnist for the Mason City Globe Gazette in Mason City, Iowa, and the author of 16 books. He is a member of First Covenant Church.





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  1. What a wonderful weaving of thought and emotion! It is a great encouragement for all of us who wish for visiting hours to see our dad! Thank you!

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