Sometime in the late 1970s, on a military base in Germany, an MP came to my father’s church, and said a bomb threat had been called in, and services would have to be canceled. A certain high-ranking general who would later be infamous attended the services, and it’s worth mentioning how much protocol my father violated when he answered, “It’s a good day to die,” and went on with his services. The general came and no bomb went off and apparently the MP never reported the incident, or, in any case, my father never got in trouble. We used to beg him to tell this story at dinner parties. The ridiculous climax of “It’s a good day to die.” We thought it was courage.
Only recently has it occurred to me that my father chose for all of us that day. For the Army and the general and the Military Police and his own young wife and two children. He chose for his entire congregation. Perhaps he would argue that we could have found no happier place to die than in service to god.
Despite the fact that he lives four minutes from me, I haven’t had a conversation with him in months. Sometimes I think about those of you who have lost parents and I’m ashamed of my resistance. But here’s the thing, my choice has value. I have value. My love has value. And I see this situation from a parent’s vantage as well as a child’s. I would never excommunicate my child. Even if he were a republican. Even if he were evangelical. He is different from me, with rights of his own.
Lately, I’ve wondered if my father made an announcement from the pulpit about the bomb threat, and let the congregation decide whether to go or stay. Maybe my family rewrote the story to seem more brazen. More puritanical. Maybe we edited out his humanistic impulses because that’s not the father we knew.