Oh, what I wouldn't give to know if you could read these words! How I miss you... how I long to touch you... to see you... to hear your voice... I'm struggling right now, Dad. I still need you so badly to be here.
I turned the calendar over a few days ago to the month of February, and there it was. On the bottom right-hand corner of the page. The month of March. The month you died. It stared right back at me, almost daring me to defy that a whole year has gone by since you left us.
How can this be??? It seems impossible on every single level. There is no way it has been almost a year since you were here, since I have heard you say you love me, since I have seen you hug my children, since I have watched you talk with my husband, since I have been your daughter in a place other than in my heart.
More and more often lately I find myself wondering if you were ever really real, or if you were just a really good dream, just a really awesome part of my imagination. Were you ever really a part of my everyday life? Did I ever really exist in a world where I could talk to you whenever I had the inclination to do so? Stop by your house or your office just to say hello? Duck under your arm for a hug whenever I felt like it? It doesn't seem there could have ever been a time when this kind of carefree life together was ours to share.
I drove by our old house the other day, and upon first glance so many thoughts came rushing to meet me.
I thought of a memory Mom shared with me, about when the two of you sat on the family room step the first night you spent in your new home, and you prayed for God's blessing over all of the comings and goings of your family in the years to come. You were only a family of four then, little did you know God had three more blessings in store for you while you lived under that roof!
I thought of you carrying me into this house for the first time after I was born, and I wondered what was running through your mind. Did you already have dreams for my life? Did you hold me close and breathe in my newborn scent? Did you kiss my fingers, the way I so often saw you kiss your grandchildren's? Did you have any idea how much I was going to love you?
I thought of all the times I would follow you around the backyard as a young girl while you were weeding your garden, or picking your beans and strawberries. I remember asking what you were doing, why you were doing it, and could I help? You were always so patient with me. (Until I was old enough to know exactly what you were doing, and had decided I definitely didn't want to help. Then your patience would run a little thin.)
I thought of your precious rose bushes in the backyard, and how every summer you would let me pick out the one I loved best to keep in a glass of water by my bed. It was always pink, and it would always be in full bloom, meaning it wasn't going to last more than a day or two. But you never tried to talk me into a different one, always appreciating and respecting that beauty, to me, was a flower erupting in petals and color, not one which I would have to wait to see come into it's own someday down the road. (Did you know already then that patience was never going to be one of my strong suits? You always knew me so much better than I gave you credit for.)
I thought of you relaxing in your beloved brown recliner, reading the newspaper in your cut-off shorts in the heat of summer, not blinking an eye as I weaseled my way under your arm in all of my sticky, sweaty mess just so I could be close to you. I would only sit there for a minute, as I found myself not quite as into the Sports section as you were, but I just loved knowing that you were never off-limits to me. You were always available for affection, and I could go in for a quick snuggle whenever the spirit moved me.
I thought of laying in my bed at night, long after I was supposed to be asleep, waiting for you to come into my room and kiss me goodnight before you retired to your own bedroom. I would pretend to be sleeping, and relish the feel of your soft kiss on my cheek and your soft stroke of my hair. I would fall asleep immediately after, comforted into complete security knowing that my Daddy was so near, just one room away, right where I wanted him to be.
Dad, I so miss the way you loved me. I miss all the parts of you from my childhood on up through a year ago that turned me into me. There's something about a father's love that cannot be replicated, never duplicated, and it hurts so much not having this in my life anymore. I miss your fatherly concern, I miss making you proud, I miss having you call me up just to say hello and see how I am doing. I miss knowing that there is a man out there who has spent years and years invested in me, invested in seeing me turn out to be the best possible version of me, and I miss knowing that my future was always of great value and importance. I miss being prayed for by you. I miss the earnest, diligent, sincere manner in which you would lift me up to the King. I miss you praying in expectation for me... praying without ceasing... praying in love. There is not a doubt in my mind that not a day went by where I was not placed at the throne of Jesus by your lips. I miss this, Dad. The love you had for me is impossible to match, and I am having a hard time moving on without it now.
They say that the first year is the hardest, and I am hoping this to be true. As I sit here now, it feels almost as if I have betrayed you by being able to make it this far. As if by me continuing to live my life somehow demeans the love I have for you. There were times in the beginning when I literally could not breathe when I thought of you not being here anymore, and that seems more accurate of the way I should still be feeling. I don't want to get used to not having you here. I don't want to be okay with your absence. I don't want to relegate you to just a part of my past. You deserve so much more than that. You deserve to still leave me breathless, because that is still how much I love you, still how much I miss you, still how much it hurts to have you gone.
I am afraid, no, terrified, of losing my memories of you. With every day that goes by I am taken one more day away from the time we spent together. I am taken one more day away from hearing your laughter. One more day away from listening to you give me words of fatherly wisdom. And I can't bear the thought of losing any part of you that was a part of me. I don't know any magical way to keep these parts of you alive within me, other than to repeat my memories over and over and over again in my head. And so I do.
My dearest Dad, saying good-bye to you still isn't an option for me. With the one-year anniversary of your death approaching it is no more easier now than it was over 300 days ago to fathom the rest of my life without you. You still consume me, you still occupy so much of me, you still are the very first place my thoughts go to when they are left to their own devices.
But Jason reminded me again the other day that while it's okay for me to look back, I need to remember that there is a future. I cannot get so caught up in my life without you that I forget that I will have life with you again. You and me, we're not done yet. I think it was Steven Curtis Chapman who said, after his little girl passed away in a tragic accident, that "Our future together will be so much greater than our past". And I will hold onto that now. I will remember that you were mine once, and you will be mine again. I was your daughter once, and someday I will be your daughter again... for all eternity. Someday soon we'll be stopping to smell the roses, together. You'll let me pick my most favorite one, and I will turn to you and see your eyes shining into mine once more.
I miss you, Dad. Everyday, all day, I miss you. Life is beyond hard without you in it. But along with my pain I will try to see your face in my future, where I know it will be. I'm ready to be with you again, Dad. And this time it will be forever.
Your loving daughter,
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day wondering if this pain ever gets any easier. It seems silly sometimes, sometimes even wrong, that it should still hurt this bad. I guess it's just a testament to the love I had for him, which in turn is a testament to the man You molded him to be. He loved You more than anything, Lord, and that love changed him into a man impossible not to love in return.
I have so many questions for You someday, Lord, regarding the life of my father. So many answers I need from You. But right now I am just going to be grateful that I will have the opportunity to ask them. One day I will see You, and I will see my father again, and it is only because of Your love for all of us that this is a possibility.
Thank You, Lord, for loving him. For showing him how to love. For teaching him to love his children towards You. For being the only true example of unconditional love that he could model for his own family so that we, in turn, would grow to love You too.
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of my father's life into my own. And, please, be near to me now while I figure out how to keep on living this life with him no longer in it.
I love You, Lord. Forever and always.
In Your Name I pray,