Friday, July 3, 2009

Papa's Place

Yesterday Jason found the list of people and phone numbers which we had taken to the hospital with us the day Dana was born.

My Dad's work number was the very first one on the list.

Seeing this instantly brought me back to the moment I had called him. I can still hear those first few words as if they were just spoken yesterday.

Me: "Hi, Papa!"

Him: (Soft laugh) "You're kidding me!", in a voice filled with joy and disbelief.

(He was taken a bit by surprise, as he had just been at our house the night before helping us hang pictures and finish up the final touches on the nursery.)

Not twenty minutes after those words were exchanged our Dana was being held in his arms.

How am I going to have another baby without him here to love and cherish the end result?

When Eliza was born I don't remember the exact conversation we had when I called him to let him know he had a brand new granddaughter. What I do remember is the multiple visits both she and I received over the course of the next three days in our hospital room. He would be at the hospital frequently those days, visiting people from our church, and every time he was in the building he would drop by for a few quick words and a snuggle from the newest addition to his family.

Looking back I remember how happy I would be to see him, how overwhelmed with love for both him and Eliza I would be as I watched him cradle her, as I watched him watch her with all the awe and tenderness his eyes could muster, and as I watched her experience for the first time a love she would never encounter from anyone else... the love of her Papa.

I don't know how I'm going to do it. How I'm going to be able to not focus on the huge void that hospital room will hold without him in it. How I'm going to be able to look at my new baby and not picture him or her being held in the arms of their Papa without the grief of reality crippling me.

I can't even think about it now without tears burning their way down my cheeks.

This sadness and sense of loss is almost unbearable. If it's this bad now, I am terrified of how hard it will be when the moment finally arrives that our new baby is here, the excitement of the first few minutes has worn off, visitors start arriving, and he does not.

I almost feel I should apologize now to anyone who comes to see me and finds themselves having to bear witness to seemingly random bouts of crying. I'll probably just blame it on hormones, but more than likely it will be because it will have just hit me, again, that our new baby is Papa-less.

The only thing that ever brings me a slight modicum of comfort when I start feeling this way is that we were lucky enough to be able to share the gender of this baby and his or her name with my Dad before he passed away. We had our ultrasound technician seal the contents in an envelope (no, we didn't even peek!), and brought them to the Hospice House with a letter introducing him to his newest grandson or granddaughter. It was so important to us that he be able to visualize what his family would look like upon this baby's arrival, and I love knowing that they shared something together, something special, the only thing they would ever be able to have here on earth between the two of them.

It brings me peace, envisioning him up in heaven, talking to Jesus about this child by name.

If you would be willing, I ask you to pray for me in the weeks leading up to this baby's birth. I find myself grieving everyday for the both of us, and sometimes it is hard to even make it through the sorrow to my next thought. Please pray for strength for me, and comfort, and God's presence to surround me. Please pray that I don't become overwhelmed with my Dad's loss in my life and the life this child, but that I can concentrate on keeping his legacy alive in the ways in which we raise him or her. And please just pray that the hole I can so clearly see waiting for me that day will be filled with peace, and the knowledge that my father is still with me, alive in memory and thought. Pray that I remember that his love will never be erased nor diminished by death, but carried on until we all see him again, and until the day that this baby will meet his or her Papa for the first time and experience the warmth of being held in his arms.

How my heart soars when I think about being a witness to that first embrace...

Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day searching for the strength to make it through what will surely be a difficult time. The joy of having this baby far outweighs any sadness which I feel, but there are still very deep feelings of sorrow and loss when I think of our child entering into this world without my father's love being there to welcome him or her. He was such an integral part of those first few moments of both our other children's lives, and it's impossible to imagine him not taking his place as the adoring, newborn-cuddling Papa that Dana and Eliza got the chance to enjoy.

Please, Lord, be with me in those moments when I am overwhelmed by his absence. When all I want is for him to walk into my room, take my baby from my arms, and gaze upon him or her with his own special grandfatherly affection and devotion. Stay near to me in those times when I am alone with this child, and I find myself longing for nothing more than just a few minutes for them to share, so that he might have the opportunity to imprint himself on his or her life and heart.

I am unequipped, Lord, to relay to this child the kind of man their Papa was, and I become overcome with sadness when I think about the fact that I even have to try to.

I miss him, Lord. Everyday, all day, I miss him. But just because I am missing him help me not to think that this child will be missing out on his love. Because he was filled with Your love, and I need to remind myself that Your love is plentiful, and unconditional, and it is here. And it is in that hospital room. And it is waiting to envelope and surround our baby just as my father's would be.

Be close to me now, and stay close to me when You know I will be needing to feel You near.

I thank You for the life of this child, and for the special place it already holds in Your heart.

In Your Name I pray,

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