Friday, 4 November 2016

Wearing my father's clothes

I am wearing a lot of Dad's clothes these days.

After Dad died here in Lalitpur in mid August, I was up in Mussoorie twice, and each time came back down with more of his clothes.

Today I am wearing his khadi kurta and a set of black slacks.

At first the clothes smelled strongly of Dad.  Or should I say of the Keo Karpin oil that he used liberally on himself.  As the weeks have gone by, and successive trips to the washing machine, the scent has faded a bit.

The memories come and go these days.  Normally when I am slipping on one of Dad's shirts or kurtas, or when I hitch up a pair of the splendid pants I have inherited from him, my mind goes back to him.

How strange to have him not 'around' - at least in the sense that I know he is there with Mum in Mussoorie - praying for us multiple times a day - meeting people with his big smile and welcome - sending emails to various parts of the globe (and to us too of course) with his SOOOOOOO MUCH exclamations.

How strange to know that I am wearing these clothes, because Dad is dead.  Because he does not need them anymore, and because as Eichers we are quite comfortable with hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups.  It's very much what Dad would have wanted.

In the rush of life after Dad's translation to glory, I have to admit that I have not taken much time to be quiet and just reflect and pray.  The on-going cascade of minutes filled with things-to-do (and various levels of leisure) swirl around us, and the business of the present crowds out much else.

So feeling the cloth gives me some opportunities to process.  Little glimpses and reminders.  And I try to say a quick prayer of thanks when the memories come.   The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be His name.

It's humbling to be wearing Dad's togs.  It is inevitable, and I think in some ways right and healthy, to compare yourself with your father.  The high bar that Dad and Mum have lived out in their open vulnerable lives, their generosity of spirit and deed, the commitment to the Lord and His plans on their lives... all these are hard acts to follow.   As I put on a shirt of Dad hurriedly in the morning a small thought comes to mind - how would Dad have lived this day?   Feeling the still slightly un-used-to feel of his pants when I sit down occasionally spurs a thought about him - and about how my life is being lived out.

Of course, Dad would never want me to imitate him.  His own life was a careful imitation of His Master, the gentle carpenter, the wounded healer, the patient shepherd of foolish disciples, the one who spent hours in communion with His Father.   I hope that I can gratefully look beyond Dad to the source of His strength and the author of all that was good within Raymond Elmore Eicher.

I hope that my actions, my attitudes, my words and my decisions will bear the fragrance of the sweet Jesus that Dad loves so much.   I am not concerned about whether Dad can 'see me' today - as David Rendall said at Dad's funeral - Dad's face is probably glued to the beauty and shining majesty of His Saviour's face.  But I would like the one whom Dad loved to fill me with His love, and clothe me with His beautiful character.


Last weekend had another clothes-related experience which moved me deeply.

Sheba, Enoch and I were attending the South Asia regional conference of the ICMDA (the International Christian Medical and Dental Associations).  Dr. Arul Anketell from Sri Lanka, a saintly man of deep love for God and His word and all the many imperfect followers of Jesus was giving the evening devotions.  On the final night, Dr. Arul was sharing about exchanging a garland of joy for the ashes of despair.  He talked about how he had wanted to get a flower garland and give it to someone in the room, but was not able.  Then he took out a purple shirt and said that instead he had decided to give his favourite shirt to someone.  And then he told the entire crowd that he would like, if I permitted him, to give it to me....

What to say?  What an amazing privilege to have Dr. Arul drape the purple shirt around my shoulders.  Even now my eyes are rather moist as I think about his offering of love - and the amazing privilege of being 'chosen' out of all the other folks whom Dr. Arul knew so well in that room...

We stand on the shoulders of giants.  We are draped with the mantles of those who have quested before us.  We are clothed in the garments of righteousness.

Let us step forward, knowing that we are not worthy, but grateful for the abounding love that is wrapped around us like a cloak.

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