Current Issue

As told to Janet Kahler

I quietly excused myself from the faculty meeting, taking refuge in the ladies’ room. Unbidden tears coursed down my cheeks, releasing emotions I had held firmly in check for far too long. For the first time since Dad’s death, I finally admitted to myself that he was truly gone.

A couple weeks before, our principal had arranged a faculty meeting that was different from the usual. He had asked us to bring samples of our students’ writing. In small groups we were supposed to discuss how we encouraged writing in our classes.

Annie, the mathematics teacher, told how she had asked her students to address three or four specific areas. “I graded the assignment simply on how well they expressed themselves relative to the guidelines.”

“That’s all? You didn’t grade for spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and grammar?” June, the English teacher, was appalled.

“No, I leave that to English teachers,” Annie replied.

I sat there wondering how I would explain the way I had marked the papers I had brought, all carefully “corrected” for every error that I could find.

I had grown up in a home where proper grammar was a must, for Mom was an executive secretary, and Dad was an English teacher. Consequently, my unvoiced response to Annie was, “Horrors! Not grade for grammar? Grade simply on expression of thought? What about the literacy we’re supposed to be encouraging?”

The topic dropped from my mind until our next faculty meeting, when the principal set the stage by showing a video on collaboration and team playing. Then, playing some pensive music, he stated, “I’d like you to reflect about what we learned at our last meeting.”

Memories flooded my mind. It was my freshman year in college in another state. I’d write letters home telling what was happening, what I was learning, and how I missed my family. Imagine my consternation on opening a letter from home and finding that, instead of a newsy letter about family happenings, it was my letter, carefully corrected by Dad. English wasn’t my easiest subject, and that letter looked as if it had been splattered with blood. All the missed commas, forgotten periods, words that were misspelled or not properly capitalized were clearly marked in red! My heart sank! How I dreaded receiving those “bled over” letters! After about the third or fourth returned, corrected letter, I wrote, “Do you want me to share what’s going on, or do you want me to write a theme paper once a semester?”

I imagine Dad was hurt. He wrote back, “I’m sorry, Marge, for offending you. That wasn’t my intent. I thought you’d want to know the kinds of mistakes you make in your everyday writing. I won’t correct and return any more of your letters.” He kept that promise, and I continued writing at least weekly.

Sitting there in the faculty meeting, I began to sense how my students must feel when they get back papers that I’ve covered with red ink!

Then my mind jumped to the realization that now I wouldn’t mind getting even one of those corrected letters back from Dad. However, that would never happen again, for I couldn’t write any more letters to him; and even if I did, there was no way he could respond. I felt guilty for not calling him more often. I know he must have felt lonely as the years marched on, Mom died, he aged, and my siblings and I went our own ways. Because he was a very tender man, I know he must have shed many tears over us.

As I sat there, first I began sniffling. Then as intense emotions of love, combined with my bottled-up sorrow, began washing over me, I realized that I could no longer contain my tears. Quietly excusing myself, I went to the ladies’ room and let the tears flow. “Daddy is gone now, truly gone! I will never again get a letter from him!” I sobbed. My mind instinctively turned to my heavenly Father.

Thank You for being there for me now, for holding me in Your arms and comforting me. Thank You for giving me Dad for my very own Daddy until this past summer. Thank You for giving me the Christian home I enjoyed as a child. Thank You for the fact that You will always be there for me, whenever I need You, for You’ll never die!

And thank You, Jesus, for the tears You shed for me in Gethsemane. For Your red blood that covered all the sins on the pages of my life’s record, for Your blood sacrifice that covered all of my mistakes, all of my sins. Thank You for not grading me on getting everything right, but on my heart—how I feel when I sin, how I feel about Your sacrifice for me, Your full payment for all of my sins.

Wow! No “grade” for perfect writing! Plenty of red blood to correct all those mistakes! And His tears to cleanse my heart! Tears are healing. I washed my face and returned to the faculty meeting, thanking God that soon He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. I’ll see Daddy again, disease free and pain free. There will be no more suffering, death, sighing, or crying! That day can’t come soon enough for me.

Will my red pen “bleed” over the future papers my students write? What do you think?

Janet Kahler writes from Auburn, California. The person who told her this story wishes to remain anonymous.


by Janet Kahler
From the February 2005 Signs