Forty years . . . of life without my dad.

A dad who was full of life, laughter, jokes, love, fun and involvement in my life! As the third child, I came along several years after my two older brothers at a time when my folks were considered older parents.

My dad . . . taught me to ride a bike, stayed up most of every Christmas Eve night making sure our Christmas morning was magical, gave me a sip of his ‘coffee’ many mornings after he finished his first cup . . . maybe a hint of coffee along with the sugar left at the bottom of his cup, our secret! Read through the bible and prayed with me every night until I was a teen. Helped me with homework, played hard with all three of us and had a twinkle in his eye I’ll never forget.

Dad rarely fished when I was a youngster. Spent most of his time baiting my hook and taking the fish off my line! Each summer, he and my mother took us on wonderful vacations. In the pre dawn hours of our drives to the mountains, I remember crawling over the front seat to sit by him! On those trips, fishing, climbing, playing in streams, dad taught me to adore the mountains. The crisp air, smell of the pine trees, wind whistling through their branches, streams and lakes, waterfalls and the all encompassing beauty of God’s magnificent creation. Dad was just there. He taught me how to love and how to live.

In his last two years, my dad taught me how to live in the face of suffering. I remember the note on the kitchen counter. Our frantic trip to the hospital, finding someone to take our 9 month old son. My first glance at dad on a gurney shattering expectations of a minor stroke.

I still see those first moments vividly in the hospital hallway as the neurologist gave us the prognosis: he will not live until morning. My dad’s life was ebbing away. I can see his room as he lay motionless, unaware of anything or anybody around him. Vivid sensory images. The rehab hospital where we watched him exist despite the repetitive pronouncements that he would not survive the day. Where we saw him emerge from the comatose state to know us. Have some speech but little movement in any limb. He lived in the present or in the distant past. No short term memory but the moments spent with him in the present are still treasured gifts. Now my dad is whole, moving, smiling, laughing, soaking in the glories of the heavenly realm and basking in the love of His Savior.

In looking back over my 28 years with him, I’ve discovered three great gifts. Three distinct life changing moments! Dad wasn’t one to enter into deep conversations but there were a few moments in time when he was powerful in a few words . . . One at a young age after I had disrespected my mother – there was a swift lesson on obedience and respect. The Lord’s command to honor your father and mother has remained with me.

As an older teen involved in a large ministry among the poor around our church, I know he was proud of me but I soon learned where he felt I had short comings. Dad knew that ministry among the poor was a worthwhile and valued ministry, supported me wholeheartedly . . . but when it came at the cost of ignoring my last living grandparent (dad’s mother), dad’s words were clear . . . if you can’t find time to visit your grandmother but always have time for strangers and friends, something is wrong with your priorities. I got that message loud and clear. God first, family second and ministry third.

The third lesson came as a graduate student when my dad wrote a letter to my Trombone professor as I was finishing my Masters degree in Trombone Performance. He clearly was not happy about the treatment I had received and wanted the professor to know that women can do anything, I was clearly qualified and should have gotten the job! This coming from a man whom I am certain slept through a multitude of classical works when I played in the Waco Symphony, as well as parts of every concert of the many preforming groups I  played in during my college years. But he was always there!

Dad gave me a lesson on the love of a father for his daughter . . . unconditional, joy filled, supportive no matter what, a faithful deep love. While I give thanks for my earthly father, I know many others have had very different experiences and views of what a father can be. And I pray you can find room in your heart to experience the one true Father of us all.

Our Father who is in heaven . . . a Father who expects obedience and awe from us. Expects us to love our families, and the world. Pronounces value over each human being. Delights in us. Never wavers or fails to be faithful. God is merciful, caring, redeeming, restoring. Always expecting our best and always giving His best.

Though the years were short, I am grateful for my earthly dad, and I will be eternally grateful for my heavenly Father and the rich depth of His love.