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Roxane B. Salonen, Published June 14 2013

Living Faith: Losses bring two daughters together

We’d crossed paths many times through the years, but our first real meeting happened only recently.

It was the death of our fathers that did it.

Out of love for them, Liz Bossart Mathison and I finally got brave enough to break through the invisible wall that had kept us from saying hello all those times before.

Though our meeting felt long overdue, we both agreed it happened exactly when it was meant to. And once it did, we were drawn together like butterflies to flowers.

Her father, Marv, was born in 1934, and my father, Bob, in 1935. The two of us, both babies of daughters-only families, graduated high school just a year apart.

And our dads, though living in separate spheres, shared an affinity for using humor to balance out life’s difficulties, and well-placed words – hers, as a broadcast news anchor and teacher; mine, as a former English teacher and concoctor of late-night poems.

The first time I saw Liz back in college, she was Marv’s daughter to me, and that’s all I knew. I’d see her again through the years – in a magazine article, in the parking lots of our church and school, from the words of mutual friends who called her to mind.

But sometimes, we need an event to force us onto the path of a fellow soul-sister once and for all. It was my singing at her father’s funeral and writing about him that sealed the connection.

She reached out, and there we were, gathering on the first true spring day of the year on the patio of a local eatery, sipping water with lemons, munching on fresh salads, not feeling at all strangers.

It’s good we had salads. Warm food would have grown cold during the long pauses we took to share what we’d just been through – the trauma of losing someone so precious, how much more difficult it was than we’d imagined, how deep the feelings.

There were tears, and yet our meeting was far from sad. Instead it felt natural, necessary and healing. Along with everything else, we talked about the essence of our fathers, that part of them that remains with us, stronger than ever in some ways, for each had experienced slow digressions.

Before parting, we promised to stay in touch, and I know we will.

It’s times like this when I have a keen awareness of how the Holy Spirit works. Though prayer can be a beginning, we can’t always find all the salve necessary to heal our broken hearts in solitude. What really does it is being in the company of one who has been there, whose soul has been similarly broken open, exposed raw and real.

It is when we are able to share these vulnerable times with other human beings that the Spirit comes, breathing new life into us through our memories, our pain, our will to keep living.

And we must. We have others who need us, just as we needed our dads, and for that reason alone there’s no question. We will go on.

Even now as I recall my time on the patio with Liz, I feel less alone and eager for our next meeting, when we’ll have more to share, and hopefully, a chance to discover through each other new ways to live.

I can’t help but think that whenever and wherever Liz and I gather, it will be not a twosome but a foursome there – two “baby” daughters with the spirits of their lively, word-loving, joke-throwing fathers tagging along.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com