The last time I saw my father was two days before he lost his valiant fight against lung cancer. We had no clue that his death was imminent, because he felt no pain and looked forward to the 64th birthday party which I was hosting for him at my house that weekend. Sadly, his birthday party turned out to be our family luncheon after his funeral.
During my last visit with my father, he handed me his favorite new novel and asked me to read it. It was Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour.
I wish I would’ve read it that night, so we could’ve talked about it right away. After his death, I tucked the novel into a book shelf and let it be until I was looking for a good read this winter–twenty years later. I was drawn to that book like a magnet.
As soon as I held Last Of The Breed in my hands again, I wondered if there might be a message in it that my father had wanted me to receive before he died. Soon after I started reading, I knew I’d found it when tears welled up in my eyes as I read the request to “Hold a place for me in your heart.”
This was my father’s last wish. Writing this today stirs another rush of emotion. He was not a man who expressed his love in words.
Only once do I remember him saying, “You know I love you kids.” He was driving my brothers and me to spend the night at our grandmother’s house when he actually told us he loved us. It was a few seconds after we’d heard a Beatles song on the car radio for the first time.
As I recall this double magical moment, I feel the joy of being loved by my father and being inspired by the Beatles in the same instant.
As I now hold in my hands my father’s favorite new novel from the last days of his life, I can’t put it down. I see why it has become a classic adventure story of a man’s valiant fight to survive in the most forbidding season and land ever known–winter in the Siberian wilderness of Soviet Russia.
I remember how my father faced his final fight against cancer without complaint and with joy as he savored the fall beauty in his final days.
As Louis L’Amour wrote about a wonderful father-daughter relationship in Last Of The Breed, he could not have known he’d be the messenger for my father’s last wish to hold a place for him in my heart. I am thankful for this tender reminder.
Love deeply and live your dreams now,