I Know My Father Held Me

I had been told. Now I know for myself. Life will not be the same anymore. As I write, it has been one year since my father passed away as Mom and we children kept vigil by his side. We had suffered with him through Alzheimer’s for several years. I was very grateful that right up to when he lost consciousness — or I should say the ability actively to interact with us, which was about a day before he died — Dad always recognized me.

Never a hesitation. No matter how his day was going, how confused he might have been, he said “Hi John” when I walked through the door. Followed by a pucker to give me a kiss.

Hold Him in Memory

Now I have the rest of my life on this earth to hold him in memory; though not in my hands. There are many things I’ll fondly remember — too many to mention, or count. I’m especially grateful that I can still hear his voice. Saying my name.

It is remarkable how a parent remains with us in ways hard to put a finger on. I sense my father’s presence in how I think, feel, and act. His phrases on my lips; his world-view in my eyes. Not all the memories are bright — to say otherwise would be untrue. But the not-so-good are softened, and even suffused with the good.

Just a few weeks ago we celebrated my first birthday since Dad’s death. Mom wrote to me in a birthday card that she knows how happy Dad was when I was born. I wish I could remember that for myself.

But maybe I can. Perhaps we recall, or in some sense retain, more than we think we recall from our early life. They say that those born with the umbilical cord around their neck have a fear of being strangled. If so, then it seems that things can indeed come through from very early in life, can be held in a sort of sub-conscious memory. And surely this means the good things too. Especially the good things.

I know that my father held me, just as in the photo above I have he is holding my second son. Neither I nor Raphael have, or ever will have, a conscious memory of being cradled in his arms. But neither one of us, I am convinced, would be the same, had he not.


John Cuddeback is professor of philosophy at Christendom College. He is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and has written for Nova et VeteraThe Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics. He lives with his wife and six children on a farm where they raise heritage breed pigs. “I Know My Father Held Me” is republished from his “Remembering a Deceased Parent,” first published on his website Bacon From Acorns.


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