Last month I came across a beautiful article with a similar title, and it sparked something in me. Writing has always been healing outlet, and as I approach my second Father’s day after losing my dad, I knew I had to share a piece of my heart with every girl, or woman, who has lost their dad- expectedly or unexpectedly, because our hearts are tied together. In this life, finding hearts that have been through similar struggles, and letting them heal the part that is broken inside of you, is vital in your healing.
Everyone’s story is different.
We are built different. But the hole inside of our hearts when losing a dad, a parent, or a loved one, is the nagging reminder that everyday they are not there. Until the day, we find what was meant to heal that hole in our heart from the beginning. As I sit here in the studio, with pictures of my loved ones around me, including my dad’s senior photo, I ponder things I wish people would have known from the beginning, and things I wish I would have known the first year after losing him come flooding back.
1) Forgive me with grace – Looking back, and still even now sometimes, there are days, that for some reason or another, I’m reminded of the smallest things about my dad. I see a dad walking with his little girl at the park, or downtown, I witness a daddy daughter dance, or as he gives his little girl away at the isle and I cry. I still cry. I have let myself be okay with that. I don’t want you to walk on egg shells around me when talking about your dad, or telling me about how he makes a point to take you out to dinner as a “daddy daughter” date. The first few months, this was hard, but it is beautiful. If you have that kind of relationship with your dad, that’s beautiful, and you should never be afraid to share that.
2) Everyone’s story is different – My dad and my story is completely different from most people’s. Our relationship was restored, through a life changing diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. A bittersweet journey restored, and hand crafted by Our Creator as I knew he was NOT the author of my dad’s sickness, but if I looked towards Him, and His promises to me, He would turn ashes to beauty, (Isaiah 61:3), restore the lost time (Joel 2:25), and repay double for the heartache (Job 42:10). I had a choice, I could live in the past, or make the next however many years my dad and I had together, the best that we had seen.
3) Ask about him – Many people don’t know how to approach this one, especially as time goes on, or they never knew your dad they way you did. Especially people closest to us, they think that bringing him up will bring back painful memories, when actually, quite the opposite is true. I still talk about my dad. Regularly. Sometimes out of the blue. It’s okay. It helps us heal. To this day, I still buy my dad a birthday, Christmas, and Father’s day card. We still think about them. It’s okay to ask about him. Please ask.
4.) Don’t take yours for granted – This is a huge one for me, and quite honestly, the hardest one for me to talk about. DAILY I come across girls, friends, strangers, family, who take their dad’s for granted. If he’s always been there, set curfews, given you rules, PRAYED for you, helped you with finances, put car in your gas, called to make sure you got home safe (even after you are married), surprised you at work, bought or picked you flowers, hugged you just because, or called to say he loved you, you are extremely blessed. I didn’t experience much of that with my dad while he was here, but I SEE, I hear stories of this, and it blesses my heart. Even though my dad’s gone, a promise YOU can make to us girls who don’t have their dad around to hug, or say I love you back – is to appreciate him. Thank him. TREASURE those times.
5) MAKE time to MAKE memories – In such a busy world, and with division of all kinds attacking the very thing that was made in the image of God, Family is important. Your dad is important. No matter how busy, or how far- MAKE the time to see him. MAKE the time to surprise him by showing up out of the blue, or by cooking his favorite meal. Take time to discover his favorite meal. Laugh together, talk about the future, and the past. Just make the time.
6) Take Photos – My dad HATED being in photos, and if you got him in a photo- it was usually with a grimacing grin (those who know my dad, know exactly the face). But you know what? We treasure those photos. We LAUGH about those photos. Because in 5, 10, 20 years when our children ask about their grandpa, those photos will be the only thing they know him by, and the stories that we tell from the times those photos were taken. Take even the hard photos. As my dad got sick, I continued to take photos. Not to be morbid, but to document the journey of us. To remember the struggle, but the beauty that came in the days where he could say my name, or the days where though he was weak, he was still one of the strongest men in my life. I have a photo curled up next to him, in his bed, from the night he passed. Not so I could show to others, but so in 20 years, when that memory may become faint, I can remember the worship song I was singing to him as I fell asleep next to him in his hospital bed. I can remember being woken up 3 minutes before he passed into a new life, and the way my mom and I held his hand as he went into heaven. That photo, though many could not understand why I took it, that photo will remind me of our last chapter, till I see him again someday- healed, restored, next to my Father in Heaven! Take the photo…
7) No one can replace him – Though no one can replace him, there are days I wish someone would try. I always know my Heavenly Father is there, but there are days where I just need a dad. I want to call my dad and tell him how close that basketball game was, how the ref’s totally blew the Lions game, or…. the day we found out that he was going to be a grandpa for the first time. Those days, I wish someone was there. I have an amazing Father in Law whom I love dearly, and he has taught me so much. We have Godly men in our life, whom we trust and look up to- and I would call in an instant. But, the truth is, I hate seeing my mom alone, I want someone to be there, to try and take my dads place, knowing full well they never could, but to try.
8) Help someone else heal – I never knew how huge this was until this past year, when a little girl stole my heart, who had just lost her dad. The more I was there for her, and just loved her, the more I realized the healing that was coming to my heart, as hers was starting to open again. We would write letters to our dads, who ironically, happened to share the same name, and just talk about them. We would sing their favorite songs, and laugh about silly memories of them, and goofy accents they would talk in. That little girl brought me so much, and I am really writing this for her. As her mom may start dating again, for her to know, and be sure of these things. To always know her Heavenly Daddy is there to talk to on day’s she’s lonely- and that he did NOT take her dad away from her. That no one will be able to replace her dad, and that it is okay to let someone else in. To cherish the moments, and not hold them in, to continue to talk about her dad, like he is in the next room. To cry if it hurts, but not to stay in the place of sadness because so many future memories are robbed and lost there. The sting of being a daddy’s girl may linger, but there is hope.
9) Find hope in Your Heavenly Daddy – There is a beautiful love letter from Your Heavenly Father, and from this, it shows His heart towards His children.
Don’t run from Him,
Don’t be afraid of Him… and don’t blame Him.
10) There is still hope for the future – This father’s day for me, is lined with so much Joy, as my best friend, my partner in crime, my other half, will be celebrating as a Daddy for the first time, as we are expecting our first child in October. I have always dreamed of this. Of having the chance to see the one I love more than anyone in this world, raise a family with me. Become a dad. Teach our son how to ride a bike, or our daughter her worth as a Princess in Christ. To date her, to love her, to be a coach for his little league team, to watch them play, to work through the teenage years. To pray as a family, to confess the word over them from the time they are created in the womb. This year, I have a new joy- seeing that unfold. Something that was so profound to me, and I don’t think he ever realized it- was when I told our Pastor that we were expecting. He said something that gave me so much hope, and flipped the coin completely on how I looked at things.
In the past, when the happiness having children came up in my heart, it was usually followed by the nagging thought in my mind was how unfortunate it was that our children would never know my dad. But on that day, our pastor shifted my thinking when he said…
“How exciting that your dad will get to spend the long side of eternity with his grandchildren.”
That was beautiful. It was a life changing moment for me. Something so simple. To realize, they WILL know him, not just through our memories, but when they meet their Creator someday…
This father’s day- don’t take for granted what you have, or live in the past of what you could have had.
Pursue grace, and find hope.