Father’s Day Without My Dad, 2011

I lost my father in 2004.  7 Father’s Days ago, tomorrow.

This is his story.

My father was the last of five children in a household that never had enough money to go around.  His mother died when he was young–eleven, I think–and his father died when he was in his twenties.

I never thought much about what it must have been like for him, to lose his parents like that.  To lose his mother, so young.  And then his father, too.

My dad had a radical conversion to Christianity in his early twenties.  A man came to his house handing out Bibles, and that was how it all got started.  My dad stopped drinking, stopped partying, and waited to see what the Lord would have for him next.

He had a job at a window factory—not much.  He hadn’t graduated high school, dropped out at 15, I think it was.  He met my mother at a church, and they were soon married, she nearly 19, he 26.

Encouraged by my mom to go back to school, he earned his GED and then went to night classes at a business college.  After earning his two-year degree, he landed a job that would span more than 30 years, a wonderful job at the Assembly of God Headquarters where he worked as a computer programmer.  It was a running joke that he was the only Baptist in the Pentecostal organization.

My dad played jokes on people.  One time he took my plastic play spaghetti sauce and put it on somebody’s chair.  He was a prankster like that, only he somehow managed to always be funny.  He was quick on his wit, too.  My dad and I would create improv comedy together, tossing jokes back and forth when he got home from work.

He was always home as soon as work was over.  He never wanted to hang out with friends more than he wanted to be around his family.  On Wednesdays, he visited the sick and elderly of our church, and of all the people you would want to have come see you at the hospital, my dad would be at the top of your list.  He was true-kind, not fake-kind.  He prayed for people, and he was funny.  He knew how to think up jokes that the elderly women on his routes would be delighted by.  He was so beloved by them.  It was not secret he was their favorite deacon.

Dad was always about service.  He would scarcely take his shoes off when he got home before he would do the dishwasher or laundry.  He always wanted to help.  He loved my mother so much, that I think maybe one reason I’ve waited so long to get married is because my expectations are so high!  Loving, loving, loving.  My dad always wanted to take less money for his lunches, so my mom could have more money for her groceries.  Whenever we ate out, my dad always wanted to pay out of his lunch money.

I had an extraordinarily special experience as a child, because I had an extraordinarily special dad.  He always took care of me.  And he always wanted to play with me.  He at first wanted to play sports, but when he saw I just didn’t like them, he didn’t push.  He was happy to play make-believe games with me all Saturday, and every night after work.

As I grew up, my dad wasn’t any less crazy about me.  It’s true!  Dad was crazy about me!  I loved to listen to music, and I remember him one time bursting in on me and sweeping me up in a goofy ballroom dance to a 60’s rock song.  I didn’t know then what a treasure he was.  I thought at the time that I was something special . . . but I see now, that wasn’t it at all.  It was my dad who was special.  Any little girl could have been his daughter and he would have treated her no less kindly.  I don’t know why God gave me Don as a father, when so many other little girls have fathers who mistreat them or leave them.  I know it wasn’t because I deserved him.  I think about how there could have been a hundred, a thousand little girls who would have been better daughters . . . but when I think about my father, looking down on me from Heaven, I know he’s giving me the message that I was the one for him.

I started college before I had my license, and my dad would drive me to and from college . . . and to lunch.  He didn’t mind staying late at work.  He didn’t mind driving me around for lunch, even though he usually ate at work.  And he always wanted to pay.

When my father was diagnosed when ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2002, I felt my world collapse in.  So much of my faith was tied in my father’s love for God.  I will never forget how excited he was the day I told him, as an eight-year-old, I was saved.  I never saw him so happy, so jubilant.

I tried to take care of my dad when he got sick, but I didn’t really try.  My faith had been flattened like a cake taken too soon out of the oven.  I loved my dad—oh, I loved him!  But I didn’t know how to show him.  He was being overtaken with dementia, and it was like living with a man off the street.  This new, unpleasable, miserable man could not be my father.  This man who had lost so much muscle and fat that he looked like a mummy, looked like a creature ready to be entombed—this could not be my father.  This man who was too weak to rise out of bed, this could not be my knight in shining armor.

The pains of his illness still surround me like a faint but present mist.  Food processors, used to turn his food into liquid.  The lopsided dining room table he rammed his electric wheelchair into.  “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace” songs he was supposed to sing three times a day to keep his vocal chords working.

Those pains are a mist . . but there is something I have come to see behind the mist.

It is my father.

No, I don’t see him.  I don’t really see him.  Not with my eyes.  But I see this quiet man of God who went through humiliating suffering looking back at me, only his eyes are like steel.  His body is fuller, stronger than it ever was.  He looks at me and I see his peace that I now love Jesus, that I have become what he was in his life: a believer.

My Father’s Day is without my dad . . . . . . . but it is not without my Father.

And Dad knows that.  He does.

Love you, Daddy.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead.  (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  For He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:4-10, NLT)

But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9, AKJV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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