Celebrating my dad, and missing him too…

Morning light sifts through the sheer curtains,
but my room is filled with even breaths of four other people. It doesn’t seem to matter that two of the figures sprawled across the floor have bedrooms of their own downstairs. Somehow, most of the time, they manage to drift up the steps in the middle of the night and crumple in a pile on the floor in my room. I know soon we may need to put a stop to it.
The eldest IS going on 8, but I can’t blame him.
I always felt safest when Daddy was home too.

Scan 5

I remember as a child sneaking down the hall and peering silently around the corner to catch a glimpse of my dad, sitting at the dining room table, book spread out under him, his tired eyes poring over the page. I’d tiptoe off down the hall, hoping no boards creaked and slide under the sheet, happy.
Life was good.

Scan 2

So this morning when I got a text, there in that hushed bedroom,
and read my Mom’s words: “Today your Dad would be turning 59…”
And she proceeded to tell me how proud he would be of me, how he would tease and laugh with me, and dote over my children…
And tears streamed into my pillow, and suddenly I’m not the mom of three and wife to an amazing man.
I’m just a little girl missing her Daddy.


I remember him taking me to a sporting good store and picking out a softball glove. Back at home in the yard, he stepped farther and father back, throwing the slow arching ball. I was scared after a poor catch where the ball hit my face. But he wouldn’t let me quit,
“Step toward the ball, not away from it.”
Toward the danger, the risk, to enable accomplishment.

Those words have followed me all through life.
Later,  holding my hand as I cried, Isaac would reiterate them,
“You cannot run away from your problems. You have to face them head on.”
To ask the hard questions. To plow through the muck,
determined to get to the other side and see what God sees.

It’s been a long time. I was only twelve when he died.
And I tried to be strong for everyone as we faced those days of gloom.
The clutch of cancer reached past my dad’s starched white lab coat, and grabbed the surgeon in his prime. Thirty-nine is very young to die.
And my dear mother was widowed, and with six children overnight at the age 38.
But I smiled and bounced and played with the kids. Someone had to smile. Someone had to remind everyone to live.
Life would get good again, only I couldn’t imagine how.

Scan 10

I’ve wished for his presence so many times in these 19 years.
I wished to have his input as I dated and married.
I longed to have his arm around me, to let me bounce ideas off of.
To hear him say what I know, that he loves me.
Is proud of me.
To watch him play on the floor with my kids
(Uncle Neal, do you have any idea how much that meant to me while we were at your house? My kids adore you).

But I think I wish for him now, more than ever.
To watch my younger sisters have him guide them through life, to offer advice, to be a safe place.
And my dear mom… We watch old family videos and stumble across a scene with Dad in it, his voice sounding strange and unfamiliar. Guilt pierces deep and I wonder how I could ever have forgotten my own dad’s voice. But Mom is where we all pause, in the video Dad grabs her and dances teasingly across the floor. She laughs, and joins in his goofiness.
To see her carefree. Weight of life lifted off her shoulders.
She was a trauma surgeon’s wife. Life looked good, in spite of the 16 years of grueling school schedule.
But just as it was over, and things were looking up, he was gone.

Scan 9

She has smiled and plowed on,
but she gets on her knees and scrubs other peoples toilets to put bread on the table.
I would give almost anything for her to be able to stay at home,
to have free time to go visit the ladies in the nursing home and not worry about the bills.
Daniel recently asked me what I would do with a million dollars. And the biggest thing to me would have been to be able to set her free of work. For her to stay home and do what she loves; to cook and write notes of encouragement. Today, on my Dad’s birthday, instead of feeling sorry for herself, she wanted me to know how proud he would be of me.
Her life is so selfless.

But today, Dad would be providing so much more for her than just financially.
He would laugh with her, and help her to see life a bit more lightly.
He would grab her and make her dance across the kitchen floor, her soup spoon still in hand. He would dote over her beauty, and hold her hand.
She would not be alone.

My dad worked hard. He studied hard, and expected a lot out of himself.
But he was not a perfect man. He fell, and he fell hard. But he let God remake him. I remember in the weeks before he died, when skin hung on his arms like a concentration camp victim, and his eyes had the deep hollowed look only the dying wear, he wept loudly sitting on the edge of his bed.
Shanna and I rushed in, wondering if he needed more pain medication, which he hated.
He just shook his head,
“How I have grieved God with my life!”

He saw how his sin had pierced the very heart of Christ.
And of all the things my daddy gave me, this horrible, painful moment seared on my memory is somehow one of the dearest. My daddy saw his sin, and agreed with God. It all comes down to this; what does God see when He looks at my life.
For God is all that really matters.

Scan 6

Someone told me recently that growing up without a dad doesn’t have to cause pain, but I can’t shake it…
A dad is supposed to be there, cheering for us and encouraging us as we learn to take our first step, make our first wobbly bike ride, read our first book and eventually walk down the aisle into the arms of our groom.
Yes, growing up with out a dad hurts more than you can imagine.
It creates a vacuum and you watch everyone around you take their dads for granted.
We cannot pretend it does not exist, that the wound is not there.
It is part of our deepest being.
Breath taking, some days the pain nearly knocks you flat.

But this piercing is a gift.
Not having my dad to coach me through life has brought me face to face with my need from my real Father, the One who doesn’t die.
In the long dark nights, He WAS there, holding me even when I felt alone.

Honestly, sometimes the easiest thing is to run from the pain.
To be strong and happy and keep life going.
God didn’t create us to be miserable creatures, after all.
But the more I see, I understand we need to embrace our shattering,
and find the beauty amidst the rubble.

I’m learning to face it, to step toward the ball head on. Face the risks.
‘Cause life is worth living with all of our hearts.


6 thoughts on “Celebrating my dad, and missing him too…

  1. This grips me in a deep deep place. We are watching our 3 grandchildren grow up without their daddy. As much as we miss our son, the hardest thing by far is seeing the little ones fatherless. The youngest wasn’t born yet when Jared was tragically killed in a drowning accident.

    Thank you for these beautiful yet painful words. I needed this today. God bless you dear sister as you remember and honor your daddy.

  2. I drink up your writing each time, Melissa. And it was a though I was devouring the words, anticipating more, when it ended. Some day would you write more on embracing the grief? I agree, in all aspects of life. It is so important not to deny the difficult.

    I’m so sorry about the comment that life without a daddy does not need to cause pain. You would not be human if it didn’t. If Jesus felt pain (and He is God) over the death of a friend, an acquaintance, how much more will you over losing a daddy? Seeing your mama lose her love? Wishing your kiddos could have their grandfather? Watching your brother grow up without a father? Seeing your sisters’ vulnerability in life without that strong shoulder? Even just reading these words gives no one any idea of the depth of pain.
    So, grieve on, write on, while continuing to allow yourself to be held by your Heavenly Father.
    I love you.

  3. I found your blog by accident. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. It’s been 30 years since my dad died. I could have written these words. The ache is always there. Hugs to you my friend.

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