I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from the internet this weekend as much as possible.
It’s just too hard, too recent, too impossible to swallow. And I think that’s how it’s going to be for a while.
Almost 2 months ago my Dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack. He was truly the sweetest and most selfless man you could ever meet. It was my 22nd birthday and I was 2 weeks away from graduating, yet there in the hospital none of that mattered as he breathed his last breaths.
I loved that man with all my heart, as he loved me. I still do. He was the most selfless, kind, and hilarious guy. I would give absolutely anything in the world for one more of so many things- to hear his laugh, to hug him, to hear him say “baby girl”.
I’m grieving all of the ways I’m having to learn to live without him, all of the moments in my future I envisioned him there for that will look different, and all of the memories that make me treasure and miss him all the more. I just miss him.
I can honestly say that a day has not gone by in the past 2 months when I haven’t thought about him, when I haven’t cried, and when I haven’t felt like my world has been absolutely turned upside down.
There is a big part of me that has a hard time tying any of this into lessons to be learned, because it’s hard to place any kind of closure or conclusion on a hurt that feels so raw and feels that it deserves time to be raw.
But there are two sides of the coin that’s been specifically on my heart this week.
- Dads, please love your daughters.
To know me is to know that I deeply loved my Daddy. There were few moments I treasured more than going to lunch with him, seeing a movie with him, or just spending time with him. I loved doing ministry alongside of him. I loved watching him love and serve everyone around him so well.
But to know me well is to know that my relationship with my Dad wasn’t always easy. I was always a Daddy’s girl when I was little. He was just so captivated by me for no reason at all. I kind of took advantage of it like any baby girl would. I remember he got a brand new truck when I was 4 that terrified me because it was so tall. So to get over my fear, he sat with me in the front seat and showed me how I could press all of the buttons on the radio. All of his programming was reset and I was sold that I could ride in this big, scary truck after all.
But as I transitioned into being a teenage girl- a dark and scary journey- our relationship became all the more strained. I blamed him for some issues in my own heart and he had to prioritize some things going on at work and we eventually reached a point that we weren’t even on speaking terms. It’s hard to imagine now.
But I remember being wrecked by it. I was so mad at him and so hurt by him, yet desperately craving a relationship with him. And my Dad, being the loving, selfless guy that he was, talked with a staff member at our church and began pursuing me. He wrote me letters about what he loved about me. Things I never thought he noticed. He found things we could do together and we did them constantly. He gave me space to talk about ways I was hurt by him and he cried and told me he loved me.
The thing is, you don’t have to be perfect to be a good Dad. In a lot of ways, you just have to be there. And please don’t give up. Go to her games and recitals and look up from your e-mail on your phone. Ask her how her day was at dinner. Spend some time with some of her friends. Your presence and your interest in your daughter’s life can truly make a world of difference.
The unfortunate truth is that we truly don’t know what tomorrow holds. I watched my Dad fight for his life on a ventilator for a week until he breathed his last breath. Despite the fact he was completely brain dead, he fought to keep breathing, until the exact moment I turned 22. There is something innate inside of you that is roaring to love your little girls. Don’t let it be stifled by work, busyness, pride, or unforgiveness. Love her with all you have with all the time you have.
2. Absence teaches you a lot of things.
I never imagined to face an absence this real and this final so soon. I selfishly would do anything in the world to reverse it. But it has taught me so very much.
This past year I’ve focused greatly within the context of my job on “identity in Christ” and the concept that we are “image bearers” of Christ (Genesis 1:27). I’ve said the phrase a million times and talked about how cool it is that we were created to reveal God.
This idea has truly become extremely tangible for me in the past 2 months as I’ve thought of all the ways I bear my Dad’s image. I don’t exactly look like him. I kind of look like my mom spat me out. But gracious, does his personality come out in me more in more. We are type A to the core, passionate about responsibility, always aware of time and scheduling conflicts, and always talking to ourselves while we work. I’ve even grown to love the way my ankles sometimes pop just like his did, walking on hardwood floors. I value these things and seek to resemble his humility, love, and passion to those around me because carrying on his legacy is so very important to me.
It wasn’t until now that I’ve felt not only the honor but the demand to be an image bearer not only of my earthly father but my Heavenly Father, carrying His character to a world that I want to know Him.
Beyond this, absence magnifies the space that was once filled. There was nothing about my Dad that was small. He was a tall guy with a big heart. He had great big eyes that welled up with great big tears whenever you shared anything with him. He didn’t do anything small, whether it was loving and serving our family, our Church, or a stranger he came into contact with.
From this big absence, I’ve only come to know and wrestle more and more with just how much we were created for presence, for God’s presence with us in the garden, for the presence of the people around us, for death to never exist, and the grave to never be necessary.
But above all of this, absence makes you treasure. You treasure what you miss and what you long for. I treasure my Dad’s generosity and compassion. I treasure his ability to fix absolutely anything. I treasure his ability to make me laugh. I treasure that I had a family for 22 years that was whole.
Absence has taught me that no one has resembled Jesus more to me than my Daddy did in loving me, caring for me, providing for me, protecting me, and relentlessly pursuing me.
Dad’s, you are one of the greatest image bearers of God in your children’s lives. The week my Dad went on to be with Jesus, my whole family got tattoos of his last recorded heart beats. I got mine on my right arm in the exact spot where he would have held my arm to walk me down the aisle, should I get married one day. But right in the middle of those words, I had the word “faithful” written in cursive. My Dad has truly defined faithfulness for me. As I was writing his eulogy that I delivered at his funeral, I honestly had to go back and take the word out a couple times because of just how fitting it was. He was faithful to give his all at work. He was faithful to serve in the Church. He was faithful to sacrificially love his family. He was faithful to honor and love his wife. He was faithful to always put a smile on your face with a terrible joke he would belly laugh delivering. He was faithful.
If I’m honest, believing God is faithful has been one of the absolute hardest things for the past 2 months. It hasn’t really felt true at all. But if God claims to be faithful and it means anything comparable to the way my Dad was faithful, then I can trust it.
I would give anything for another Father’s Day with him, or any day really. But as much as my Daddy fought, this was a lack I had to feel and a hurt I had to bear. And it is one I know I would have never had the strength to face, had my Dad not strengthened me by his love and his presence. And one I could have never faced without the strength and presence of my Heavenly Father whose image He somehow allows me to bear in my weakness.