Besides precious memories, too few pictures, and a much-read and much-used Bible, all I had left of son USMC Major Luke Gaines Parker was the old hat. Now the hat is gone.
It was ironic to still have Luke’s hat after he departed for Heaven at age 37. A hat should not last longer than the person wearing it – especially an old hat.
I bought the bright blue wooly hat for Luke in the Great Basin Desert of Northern Nevada when he was eleven. He left it behind when he reported to the Marine Corps for basic training.
Because it had been Luke’s hat, I kept it and wore it on cold, windy days – even though since it was a child’s hat, it was too small for me and kept popping off my head. Over the years, the hat became tolerant of me and relaxed enough to remain on my head. After I moved to Scotland, I wore the old hat nearly every day of the year – spring, “summer,” fall, and winter. Even in the height of “summer” it is still cool – often with a strong wind. The hat kept my hair from blowing across my face and getting tangled.
Now the hat is gone. It vanished. I wish I could believe that Luke reached down from Heaven and reclaimed the hat as a sort of sign. He didn’t. Heaven is a perfect place with a perfect climate. Luke would have no need for his old blue hat. When a person dies, their spirit goes immediately to be with Jesus in Heaven – if they belong to Him. Jesus is alive, Luke is alive – but he didn’t come for the hat.
I spent several days retracing walks and runs to look for the missing hat. Folks here in the Black Isle are honest and thoughtful. When they find someone’s property, they hang it on a fence post for the owner to find: shoes, socks, keys, dog whistles, shirts, hats, dog leashes. No bright blue wooly hat.
Perhaps the hat fell out of my pocket on the rocks and washed into the sea. Perhaps it blew out of my pocket when I was running and someone who needed a winter hat took it. Actually, I’m glad that it vanished because it taught me to look into my heart for what’s left that’s really important.
Everywhere I go, I see Luke’s smile. I remember the times he called me to sing a song he had just written. I still have cards and poems he sent me. When I look at his daughter’s face, I see his eyes and the bridge of his nose. He lives on in precious memories, and in the life of his daughter. These things are important. The old blue hat? Well, it was just a hat.
Every physical possession we have on this earth, no matter how valuable, will eventually wear out, get stolen, get lost, or disappear. Even the ones that we keep until we “die” will get left behind, just like Luke’s old hat when he went into basic training. No one leaves this earth for Heaven with a suitcase.
Value your children, friends, family members, pets – everyone and everything that you love – now. Spend all the time with them you can and lavish all the love on them that you have to give. You can’t spoil anyone with too much love – but you can break their hearts with too little love.
Build memories and hang on to them. Let old hats go.