This handsome man is my Daddy. We’ve shared the same birthday for 34 beautiful years. He was one of my best friends. He was always there for me whenever I needed him, no matter what. He loved sacrificially. I learned about Jesus’ unconditional love because of the way he loved me and everyone around him. He was my teacher. The way I live my life is a direct reflection of all the lessons he taught me. He was compassionate, kind, caring, patient, joyful, and faithful, in all circumstances. He told me he was proud of me all the time and I could see it in the way he looked at me. I never questioned his feelings for me. He loved my children fiercely and doted on them in every situation. Everyone knew about his four grandbabies and how much he treasured them. He treated everyone and everything as a gift.
He was 61 years old. He suddenly and very unexpectedly went home to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Although I’m so happy for my Daddy because I know he’ll be dancing with Jesus in his perfect heavenly body, I’m so very sad for me. We had so many more things still to do and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the first man I loved. His loss is devastating for me and becomes more significant every day that passes when I can’t hug him, smell him, or pick up the phone to call him. Many, many times throughout the day, I want to call him or text him or send him a picture about something that happened. There were so many experiences still to experience. So many lessons still left to teach my children – the same ones he taught to me. More days to roll around on the floor with the kids, let them walk on his back, go on field trips with us, cuddle up with him, or show them something cool from his past. There are painful reminders all day long that he isn’t here. I just feel empty. I know time will heal and I’ll see him again in heaven, but this is so stinkin’ hard. He was a daily part of my life and was just always there. My brothers and I are lost without him, but thankful we have each other and the memories of my Daddy. The love he showed me during the 34 years he was my Daddy was more than some people experience in a lifetime. I’m incredibly grateful for that precious gift. And knowing where my Daddy is makes heaven feel a little less mysterious and a little more like home.
But for now I am left with the memories and the simple ways I try to hold onto him. Like looking through pictures, realizing there are very few with me and him since I’ve been an adult. Listening to his voice on the video I asked him to take as we reunited at the airport coming home from China with Dumpling. Playing Where’s Waldo with the homecoming videos from our house, hoping to find just a small glimpse of him. Treasuring the things he held dear. Seriously concentrating, trying to remember the stories he told me that I always thought I’d be able to hear again. Looking at the way he left his bedroom, just before he passed away in it. Walking into his closet and burying my face in his clothes for one hint of his smell. Looking through his wallet just the way he left it, with pictures showing what a proud Dad and Granddad he was. Reading his texts and looking through the browsing history on his iPhone, seeing all the times he looked at my blog or instagram feed. Watching his emails come through from the different companies he subscribed to. Going through the massive amount of stuff left in his home, which feels comforting and like a privacy invasion at the same time. Looking at all the recipe cards with his handrwriting and scribbles on them. Sitting in his chair or in his car, trying to see life the way he did. Wearing his cologne and not caring what people think about me smelling like a man. Reading through the obituary I wrote for him, knowing it’s terribly inadequate but comforting that I knew him well enough to be able to write it.
I’m trying to grasp the fact that I won’t see him again this side of heaven, and I want reality to stop still. Life going on means that it goes on without him, and everyone goes back to their busy lives. Meanwhile I’m left with reminders everywhere I turn, as well as a painful hole in my heart that will take a long time to heal. And the mess of trying to reconcile my Daddy’s estate. So for now, I’m embracing the sadness and experiencing the emotions of the greatest loss I’ve ever felt.
Thankfully I’ve been blessed with incredible friends and family who have come alongside me, done a lot of the thinking for me, and cared for me in ways I truly didn’t know I needed. I have a husband who put his life on hold to support me in every way while I mourn my Daddy’s passing. I have a Mom and two brothers who intimately know how I feel, and can show compassion simply by looking at me. God has put amazing people in my life and I know that with Him and them, I’ll come through this pain to the other side, stronger and with more compassion. I look forward to and joyfully embrace the day when Jesus returns and there is no more suffering, or pain, or death. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, no crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
And not that I want to get even more emotional or sappy, but if your parents are still with you, please take pictures. Lots of pictures. Take videos so you can hear their voices. Tell them you love them. Listen to their stories and remember the details. My Daddy was my lifeline to his family’s past, and I am crushed to think about the memories that have been lost because I didn’t take the time to really remember. Or that I won’t remember the special tricks he used to cook some of our favorite meals. I assumed I had many more years with him and now I’m desperately trying to recall all of the things he’s said to me because I can’t ask him anymore.
I created this slideshow to grieve, to process, to honor my Daddy’s amazing life, and hopefully try to show a small glimpse of the special man he was. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” Isaiah 41:10