It had been 13 years since I visited the island of Puerto Rico, the birthplace of both my parents. I had considered a vacation to the island for some time when I received word that my father was a bit more ill than he was letting on. My father, a devout Pentecostal, never let on the severity of his illness. So, in September of 2013, a call about his worsening illness, had me on an emergency flight to the island. Unfortunately, my visit there, after so many years, was on bittersweet terms. One of mixed emotions; a sense of loss, heartache, closure, completion and belonging all at once.
Just before leaving on my flight I received word of his passing. I had lost the opportunity to say a few longing last words. Words which had remained unspoken due to a broken relationship. Even when standing face to face, we were separated by a thousand miles. So to hear of his passing at that moment left me heart-broken in never having a few last words.
During the funeral, I met several people who knew him well. They offered me an opportunity to meet the man that they knew. It was during that time that I came to realize that even though he had passed, there was something learned. While we never truly communicated, opportunity was never lost, for closure in silence was itself a lesson.
This all leaves me wondering of my role as a father. While my relationships with my children have had many ups and downs, hopefully, none will be a lesson taught in silence.
Nonetheless, my journey to the island, while bittersweet, was one of belonging.