Larry George Johnson. Aug 24, 1943 ~ Dec 22, 2013

My dad passed away the Sunday before Christmas. He lived in West Virginia. I live in Oregon. There followed a few unhappy days in which I wasn’t certain whether I would be able to attend his memorial service the following week. For several reasons, one of them being that last minute air fares cost. A lot.

But in the end I did make this Unexpected Journey, There and Back Again, and now that I’m home, I want to take a few moments to share about it. Actually, I just want to list the blessings, big and small, I experienced along the way, those moments when I felt the presence of the Lord with me in a special way, so that I never forget them.

This is my Thank You note to God for His meeting me at so many turns along this five-day journey to say good-bye to Dad.

 * * *

1. We had decided by Christmas Day that we would not be able to afford my traveling across the country. But the next morning, feeling no peace with that decision, saw us discussing it again. I went online to try one more time to find an affordable fare… during the very hours that Delta was experiencing their “glitch” fare offer. I found a round trip ticket across the country for $92. It was unbelievable at the time. I was in a bit of a daze as I bought the fare, not knowing at the time that it was a glitch that Delta, thankfully, honored. There was only one seat left, so I traveled alone. I wasn’t the only west coast member of our family to book their flight during these brief hours.

Thank you, Lord

2. Speaking of family, it was a blessing to see not only my immediate family (mom, sister, brother), who all live back east, but nearly all of my dad’s siblings. I spent about 9 hours in the car with my uncle, driving to and from the memorial service, as we talked about Dad’s childhood and shared many memories and family stories going back for generations. I wish I could have recorded those conversations. It was a great comfort.

More family blessings: catching up with the rest of my family on our caravan trip to WV. Spending time with my mom in the house where we grew up and I have so many memories. Getting to know my sister-in-law and brother-in-law better. I think we all married very well. 🙂 

Thank you, Lord

3. For years my dad and I shared a love for Josh Groban’s music. My dad sang in many a choir, including the National Christian Choir. His baritone voice was a lot like Josh Groban’s in timbre, and sometimes I can hear my dad when Josh sings. While it made me cry and wrung my heart, several of my favorite Josh Groban songs were played during Dad’s memorial service. I later found out Dad chose those himself to be played at the service, though he couldn’t have known how soon that would be. They were two of my favorite Josh songs: Awake and February Song. There’s nothing my dad could have done to make me feel more connected to him in that moment. They will always be extra special to me now.

Thank you, Lord

4. On the first leg of my journey home (DC to Atlanta), New Years Day, Delta put me in first class. I’ve never flown first class. I didn’t mean to do so this time. That was just a nice quirky turn in the whole quirky Delta glitch thing. But when I boarded the plane my seat mate asked if I would switch seats with her husband, sitting across the aisle at a window seat, so they could sit together. I said sure. One first class seat is pretty much as good as another first class seat right? Wrong. Because I switched sides of the plane, instead of an east-facing window I had a west-facing window… and a view of the Appalachian front from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee… the very country that Jesse and Tamsen cross in my upcoming release, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I’d wanted to do some traveling last year to visit that area again, but the urgent need for a new roof over our heads precluded any major trips in 2013. How sweet that I got to see the Blue Ridge country in a way I never could have expected, flying past it on a clear day at 24,000 feet. I was utterly transported and suffused with the awareness of this unexpected gift from a loving Heavenly Father.

Thank you, Lord

5. During my second flight of New Years Day, Atlanta to Salt Lake City, I sat by a woman who was eager to talk about
historical fiction, especially faith-based historical fiction. I left her
with a long list of recommendations of authors and titles for
her to check out later. What a fun seat-mate.

Thank you, Lord

6. Despite the fact that the flight out of Atlanta was delayed getting off the ground, and that I reached Salt Lake City with minutes to spare (stuck way back in aisle 42 of the plane and sure I was going miss my connection and be stranded in SLC until the next available flight), I made it off the plane, across the maze of an airport and through the gate, the last passenger to reach the flight.

Christmas 2011, my last visit with Dad. I shared the news of my first book contract with him on this trip.

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