I ask that you once again bear with me. I am sure that in the future not every single one of my posts will have mention of my wonderful father, or be completely devoted to him, but right now he still occupies much of me. When I have a minute of downtime, it is to my memories of him that I immediately turn. When the lights go out at night, visions of him come rushing back. When I am left alone, with no distractions, he is all I can think about.
And right now I am alone, with no distractions, and I am in his house.
My husband is at home with the girl's for the night, my Mom is visiting my sister, and I am over here finishing up some laundry I started earlier as my dryer at home is in a million pieces on the basement floor. (None of you out there happen to be a Maytag repairman, do you?)
It is such a sweetly painful experience to be here in his home without him. Every place I look are reminders of him. From the pillow on the couch he always sat against, to the half eaten jar of his peanuts in the pantry, to the note on the side of the fridge with the word "Golf" and a phone number written in his handwriting, he is everywhere.
I may be a glutton for punishment, or just needing to feel close to him, but I found myself earlier in his closet, scanning over his wardrobe, able to visualize him in every shirt, every jacket, every pair of worn out shoes. Certain items bring back such strong memories... his neon green biking coat, his red pullover sweatshirt with the zipper at the neck, his old, scuffed up tan slippers... I can still see him in all of them as if it were yesterday.
And then I wandered downstairs, and found myself drawn to the various picture collages from years gone by hanging on the walls and adorning the ledge. These really got me. I think up until that moment I had only focused on his death as it effects me now, as an adult, and what him being gone means for me and my family in the days to come. I had almost forgotten about the man who raised me from an infant, the man who played with me through my early years, and the man who guided me through adolescence. And it was then that I found myself mourning the Daddy that the little girl in me had lost.
So, if it's okay with you, I thought I would record here a few of my favorite memories of him from my younger years, so that I have something tangible to look back upon, and won't have to worry about losing these moments along with losing him.
My earliest memory of my Dad and I is from when I was about four or five years old. He was laying on the floor in the family room, and I was laying on his chest. We were eating potato chips together. I have no idea who else was there, or if anything was going on around us, but when I think back to this moment a strong sense of security and pride overwhelms me.
He was my Daddy, and he was all mine.
Next I see us playing in the swimming pool in Florida. I could have been anywhere from six years old to twelve, as this scenario happened every year when we went down there to vacation. The only thing that makes it stand out in my mind is the pretty red bathing suit I was wearing. We were in the water, my brother Michael was there too, and he was lifting us in his strong arms one at a time in the air over his head and throwing us as far as he could. Looking back, it makes me recall what pure joy felt like. The laughter was genuine and from the deepest part of me.
He was my Daddy, and he loved to make me happy.
The next memory I jump to is of him and I watching a National Geographic special on lions together. He and I shared a special bond over our love for animals. I would be the first one he would call to come and see the bird nest he found in his flowerpots, and he was the first one I told when I got a job working for a local veterinarian. When I was in middle school and high school our interactions together seemed to become less frequent, but no matter how separate or distant our days seemed from each other, I could always count on him tracking me down if there was a good animal special on T.V., and we would sit there together, enjoying and appreciating our common bond, knowing that this would be something we could always share.
He was my Daddy, and he was my friend.
In the later part of high school I put my father through many, many challenges. I was a good student, but unfortunately for him, also a good socialite. By his own admission he was much more introverted than I, and it was hard for him to understand my need to talk on the phone for hours at a time to the same people I had just spent the entire school day with, or why I just could not stay home on a Friday or Saturday night and hang out with him and my Mom. And this leads me to the one and only memory I ever have of my Dad raising his voice to me. I wanted to go out, yet again, and he wanted me to stay home. Me, being the wise, problem-solving teenager I was, threatened to run away if he wouldn't let me leave. And he answered me right back with, "If you walk out that door you are never coming back in!".
Being that I had never been yelled at by him before, I figured maybe he meant it. Needless to say, I stayed.
He was my Daddy, and he loved me even when I was unlovable.
(Did I mention that I was in twelve car accidents between the ages of sixteen and twenty? All of them mere fender benders, and only about ten of them were my fault, but my Dad never once raised his voice in anger towards me. Exasperation? Yes. Disbelief? You better believe it. But never once did I get anything worse than a, "You've got to be kidding me". If that is not the personification of Christ's patience, love, and forgiveness, I do not know what is.)
There are so many other memories I could share with you all, but I see this post is getting lengthy, and I'm sure my laundry is almost done, so I thought I would skip to the very last memory I have of him and I alone that we ever shared here on earth. I debated writing about it, as it is my most treasured memory to this date, and it is very personal to me, but I am afraid if I don't record it I will lose it, and I need to be able to hold onto it forever. I believe with my whole heart that these minutes were given to me as a final gift from God, minutes He knew I would need to recall to make it through the years and years without my father, and minutes which would come to mean absolutely everything to me.
I was at the Hospice House, and it was about 4:30pm the afternoon before my Dad died. My Mom was there too, but she had stepped out for a few minutes to try and track down a phone number at the nurses station. My Dad was laying in his bed, and I was seated next to him, holding his hand. I felt the strongest urge to talk to him about something, anything, just to be able to make the most of a rare few minutes alone. So I proceeded to tell him what a wonderful father he had been to me, and to all of his kids. I told him that he was the best we could have ever asked for. I assured him that because of the life he had led before us, and the example he had given us to follow, we would all be together again someday. I promised him that we would be okay if he had to go, because he had instilled in us his love for Christ, and this love would see us through until we could see him again.
I somehow made it through my dialogue without crying (which can only be attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit in me), and when I finished talking and looked up at him again he was looking me directly in the face with his beautiful, kind eyes, and he said to me in his weakened, gentle voice, "Thank you for that assurance". He then pulled my face towards him, gave me a kiss on the lips, pulled my head down to lay upon his chest, and repeatedly kissed my forehead and my hair, all the while using his other hand to reach over and stroke my arm over and over again. And I lay there, face buried in his shirt, listening to the rhythmic beating of his heart, silently pleading with God to never let that moment end, to never let that heartbeat cease.
Little did I know, less than twelve hours later my father would be gone.
But at that moment, he was still my Daddy, and he held me.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day wiping the tears from my eyes so that I can find the keyboard in front of me.
Thank you, sweet Jesus, for the gift of my father and everything he has meant to me in my life. Thank you for the memories you brought to the forefront of my mind tonight. Thank you for the days, the weeks, the years, the decades that I got to spend with him, to know him, to love him, and to be loved by him.
Thank you for the opportunity to be raised by someone who dedicated his life to seeking You and finding You, and someone who had a passion for passing this devotion on to his children.
You have Yourself a loving friend in him, Lord. It is not surprising to me why You wanted to call him home. Next time You see him, tell him we love him, and we are longing for the day when we get to spend eternity with him, too.
Protect our hearts until then, Lord. Continue to bring us memories of this man we cherish and love so deeply, and miss so much. Help us keep him here with us in every way we can, so that we may pass down the lessons he so diligently taught us about You to our own children.
Thank You again, Lord, for the time with our father. The years You gave him here will never be forgotten.
In Your Perfect Name I pray,