My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
I don’t come here often. It is a pretty peaceful place; but, honestly, I don’t like it here. I don’t believe you are here. I don’t have to come here to visit you. I feel you all around me, all the time. I know you are in heaven. Coming here makes me sad. Coming here brings back memories I tucked away and don’t want to revisit. I remember that frigid day in February, when I shivered next to that gaping hole in the earth that was as dark and empty as the one in my heart. As I sat there, still and quiet, my heart broken, my soul crushed; I wanted to yell and scream and make it all stop. I wanted to wake up.
But it was real, Dad. You were gone.
Through all the heart attacks and heart surgeries, through ventilators and oxygen tanks, through 7 years of dialysis treatments, through being removed from the transplant list, through hospital stays and rehab facilities – there were scary times and prayerful times and hopeless times; but you always pulled through, Dad. You always made it.
Just not that time.
You were gone and I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to let you go. You were my Dad. You were my hero. In my mind, you were going to live forever. How could you leave me? Why did you have to go? I remember talking to myself in the middle of the night, coming up with a plan to get through this nightmare. I wouldn’t accept it. I couldn’t accept it, Dad. How could I go on living life without you?
I focused on taking care of things. I focused on making sure Mom was okay. Remember when you made me promise before every surgery and in the middle of random conversations that I would take care of Mom when you were gone? I hated when you asked me that. It made me mad when you asked me that. Nothing was going to happen. You were going to come through surgery just fine. You weren’t going anywhere. My answer was always the same. “You know I will, Dad.” I kept that promise. Mom is doing well, Dad; but she misses you. Chris misses you too. We all do.
I focused on work after you left. Too much, Dad. Just like you did when I was young. I worked too much. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to do well. Maybe I wanted to prove something to myself, or maybe to you? Remember my dream of owning a child care center? I did it, Dad! I opened 2 of them. I loved what I did. I wish you could have seen it. I gave it my all, just like you did in your career. For a while, the centers were magical places. You always told me I could do anything I wanted to do. My dreams came true, Dad. But I learned that work wasn’t so important, just like you did, Dad.
Are you proud of me, Daddy?
Remember when you told me that you didn’t worry about me because you knew Mike would take care of me? He does, Dad. He has stood by my side through everything life has thrown at me since you left. He stands up for what is right. He is a good man. He is an amazing husband and an awesome father. He protects me, too, just like you did. You were right. You didn’t have to worry about me. He takes great care of me and the kids. I love him, Dad.
You are always right, Daddy!
The kids! I have two kids. We waited a long time for them. My heart aches every day that you didn’t get to meet them and more so, that they didn’t get to know you. You would have been a wonderful Grandpap. When I saw Kalea for the first time; I saw you, Dad. I saw you in her tiny, beautiful face. I still see you in her. She is so much like you. Both my kids have your qualities. They both have your temper, too; but, luckily, they also have your sense of humor. I tell them about you all the time. We celebrate your birthday every year. Do you see the balloons we send up to heaven? We donate gifts to dialysis centers and cancer centers in your memory on your birthday, too.
Does that make you happy, Daddy?
I have cancer, Dad. Did you know that? I am sick like you were. I spend a lot of time at the doctor and the hospital for tests and scans. I don’t feel good a lot of the time and I’m in pain sometimes, just like you were, Dad. I understand now how you felt when your life came to a screeching halt, when you had to give up the job that made you happy and crazy at the same time, when you realized that life was never going to be the same. I know now how you felt when the doctors told you that they couldn’t fix you. I know what you really meant when you said you were tired. I know what you meant when you said that complaining didn’t help anything. I didn’t know back then. Forgive me, Dad. I used to tell you all the things that people say to me, the things people say when they mean well, but don’t understand. I never meant to be dismissive. I never meant to change the subject when you wanted to talk. I couldn’t handle it, Dad.
I’m sorry, Daddy!
Remember how you handled all that burden you carried, all that pain, all that fear? I do, Dad. I watched you. I watched you push through. I watched you stay hopeful. I watched you beat the odds. I do that, too, Dad. The doctors told me I would be gone by now, just like they told you that you wouldn’t make it to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. You did, Dad. You proved them wrong. You didn’t listen to the statistics. I don’t either. I keep going when I don’t feel like it. I keep smiling when I feel like crying. I look for the good stuff, even when it is hard to find. I do that because I watched you. I know how to deal with this stupid cancer because you taught me how to deal with it.
Show me, Daddy!
Remember when you cooked all those family meals? Remember when you were too tired and too sick, but you did it anyway? Remember how you spent hours preparing meals, setting the table, and making things perfect? Remember how you got excited about family gatherings, family reunions, and picnics. You made everyone’s favorite dishes. You made everyone feel special. You loved when we were all together. Family was important to you. I understand now why that was so important to you. I understand your perspective, because I have that same perspective now. Spending time with loved ones mattered more than anything, because you knew how precious that time really was. I understand that now. It matters to me, too, Dad.
Sit with me, Daddy!
Remember when you planted your garden? Remember when you made your delicious sauce from your fresh-grown tomatoes? Remember when you showed me how to do it? I paid attention, Dad. I remember how to make your sauce. You taught me how to prepare it and to can it. You taught me how to listen for the lids to seal. You taught me how to do it just right. I am going to make your sauce this summer, with fresh garden tomatoes, just like you did. I am going to serve it with spaghetti for a Sunday dinner, just like the ones you made for us. We are going to celebrate family, just like you did.
I want to be just like you, Daddy!
I think I miss talking to you the most. I still talk to you, but my heart wants to hear your voice. We talked all the time. We sat on the porch, we sat on the couch, we sat at the dining room table. Even when I lived far away, we talked every day. I called you on my way home from work as I sat in traffic. We talked about anything and everything. I told you about work. You always had the best advice. When I was upset about something, you talked me through it. When I was unsure about something, you built up my confidence. You were my biggest cheerleader. What I wouldn’t give just to talk to you one more time.
Daddy? Daddy? Can you hear me, Daddy?
So, here I sit, fourteen years after I last heard your voice or saw your face; fourteen years after I suffered through that freezing February day. But on this June day, the sun shines warm on my face. Time has restored the gaping hole in the earth as well as the gaping hole in my heart. Grass now blankets the ground just as the memories of you cloak my broken heart. I wipe the grass clippings off your headstone and place a few flowers at its base. I look at your name etched in the stone. See, Dad, this is why I don’t like to come here. All that is here is a stone that bears your name, the year you were born, and the year you died, as though those were the only dates that mattered. What matters to me were the days in between, and there is no trace of those days here.
I don’t like this, Daddy!
Tears run down my face at the thought of spending another Father’s Day without you. Instead of hamburgers on the grill, presents, and time spent celebrating you; I am sitting at this place. I don’t think you like this place either, Dad. I never feel you here, but I feel you near me all the time. I think that you are still right beside me. I think you still listen when I call, and you still cheer me on when I am down. At least, that is what I like to think. That is how I get through the birthdays, and the holidays, and the Father’s Days … and the everydays.
Stay with me, Daddy!
It is time to go, Dad. I have to leave this place. I left a few flowers for you so you know I was here. I didn’t want to say goodbye that February. I don’t want to say goodbye today either. Father’s Day is a tough day for me. You aren’t here anymore. This place makes me sad. There may only be a stone here, but I carry you with me in my heart wherever I go. I may be all grown up, Dad; but inside, I am a little girl who misses her Daddy.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
I love you and miss you, Daddy!
The Lord is near the broken hearted; He delivers those who are discouraged.