“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”Proverbs 12:18
I can still smell the sawdust in my dad’s workshop. And though I don’t remember what project we were working on, or what mistake I made, I can still hear his words of reprimand. “Jeff, Jeff, JEFF!” My dad was a good, loving father, and most of my memories of him are wonderful ones. But for whatever reason, this memory from when I was only 9 or 10 years old, stuck. 40 years later, when I make a mistake or do something wrong, I hear that voice, in that tone, shouting “Jeff, Jeff, JEFF!”
Such is the power of words. Like a sword, they penetrate deeply into our hearts in an instant. Thankfully, that’s not where the story ends.
My dad died very unexpectedly when I was 47 years old. I wondered if, after he died, those words would disappear as well. But they didn’t. Until. Until they were replaced by other words, spoken before his death, but echoing beyond the grave. About a year after he died, I happened to find an old email that was a recording of a voicemail he had left for me. I had no idea this voicemail recording existed. I listened to it, and heard my dad’s voice! I searched and found several more emails that contained records of various voicemails he had left years prior. None of them were remarkably memorable or special, as most of them were simply informational and informal. “Hi Jeff, it’s Dad. Just calling to see if you were planning to pick up the camper this week and when you planned to stop by. Have a good day. God bless. Love you, Bye.” One was on a birthday, and that one was more special. “Hi Jeff, this is Dad, wanted to call and wish you a happy birthday. Have a good day, God bless. Love you, Bye.” Message after message, hearing his voice again, tears flowing at the discovery of this unexpected blessing. But there was another blessing yet to come.
Though the messages were mostly mundane, I began to notice the way my dad always signed off. “Have a good day. God bless. Love you, Bye.” Over and over again. I had never noticed that while he was alive, but he ended many of his calls with those words! Hearing them after his death, my mind began to replace “Jeff, Jeff, JEFF!” with “Have a good day, God bless. Love you, Bye.” It has taken some effort, but I am learning to rewire my brain so that when I make a mistake, Dad’s sign off is what I hear, rather than my childhood reprimand. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Indeed.