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Father’s Day Stories

Father’s Day.

This day that serves to celebrate and honor the men that love and serve us so well, so faithfully without recognition.  This day that now serves as a painful reminder of missing all the sweet ways my Dad faithfully yet imperfectly served and loved me so well.

Stories.

Stories have often functioned as a healing balm for our gaping wounds over the past year as we have so missed our Dad, but so enjoy remembering how well he loved us and all that he continues to mean to us.

 Legacy.

Our family has discussed this word often.  My brother had friends and loved ones whose lives had been impacted by my Dad stand at his funeral, charging them that they were his legacy.

So here are a few stories to try to encapsulate the man we got to call Dad.  The man we celebrate today.  And the man whose legacy we are honored to bear.


M I C H A E L

One night when we were really little, Andrew and I fell asleep with our Mom for some reason.  Daddy found us there and rather than disturbing us went and slept in our bunk beds.  In the middle of the night there was a loud crash and Daddy came rushing into the room to check on everyone.  The sound came from his wooden shelves in his closet breaking, but he, still out of breath from his panic, said “I thought the boys’ bunk beds had fallen!”  “Honey, you were in the bunk beds.” My mom responded.

Emily Katherine had some stomach problems as a baby and had the hardest time sleeping.  I remember countless nights of Daddy pacing the living room walking her back and forth so patiently, whispering so softly.  There was not a light on in the room.  He just kept walking back and forth bouncing her softly.


A N D R E W

Every summer when we were young, my dad would shave our heads. We spent summers shut out of our aunt’s house and released into the woods, so the buzz cut made it easier to check us for ticks. Our ever utilitarian parents also used the summer to save money on haircuts. We would commemorate the start of each summer in the driveway, on top of a overturned five gallon bucket-made-seat where our dad would shave our heads and ring in summer with us.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I went to the Philippines to work on a farm for several months. My dad came down and moved me out of my dorm and we spent the several days getting the necessary supplies together. The night before I left, he showed me a weather report that showed my first glimpse of the triple digit heat I had signed up for. I began to grow my hair in the second semester of my freshman year, intending to use my time abroad to allow my hair to grow. My dad used the weather report as a bargaining tool and convinced me to let him shave my head. We went to the garage, flipped a bucket upside down, and removed my sought after hair. When my hair was on the floor and about my shoulders, my dad kissed the top of my head, thanked me for letting him shave my head, and told me he loved me.


 E M I L Y   K A T H E R I N E

I once was working on a music video project for school.  We were driving all over downtown filming in different spots.  We stopped in front of city hall and my car key wouldn’t come out of the ignition.  The longer I sat there trying to get it out the more my car kept overheating.  Not having the slightest understanding in the world of cars, I called my Dad crying, terrified it was going to catch on fire at any moment.  “I’ll be right here.”  He said on the other side of the phone.  In about five minutes, he pulled up next to me and walked up to the car.  I got out to let him assess the situation.  His tone with me got really gentle, but I could tell he was fighting not to laugh.  “Baby, I’m not trying to make you feel… Baby, you key won’t come out because your car is in reverse.”

When I was four years old, I was a bumble bee in my dance recital.  I was on stage at dress rehearsal dancing my heart out.  When the song ended, I stood there proudly expecting a grand applause from our teacher of how well we did.  Instead, all of the lights came on in the audience as our teachers whispered.  Mine walked right over to me with the microphone and said, “Where is her mother?!”  My mom had a work meeting that night, and I watched my Dad, still in his suit and tie from work, stand up to claim me.  They called him onto the stage to show him how a few of my velcro dots that held my tutu up were off and he listened so intently to make sure we could get it right for the recital.

 

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Father’s Day

I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from the internet this weekend as much as possible.

It’s just too hard, too recent, too impossible to swallow.  And I think that’s how it’s going to be for a while.

Almost 2 months ago my Dad passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  He was truly the sweetest and most selfless man you could ever meet.  It was my 22nd birthday and I was 2 weeks away from graduating, yet there in the hospital none of that mattered as he breathed his last breaths.

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I loved that man with all my heart, as he loved me.  I still do.  He was the most selfless, kind, and hilarious guy.  I would give absolutely anything in the world for one more of so many things- to hear his laugh, to hug him, to hear him say “baby girl”.

I’m grieving all of the ways I’m having to learn to live without him, all of the moments in my future I envisioned him there for that will look different, and all of the memories that make me treasure and miss him all the more.  I just miss him.

I can honestly say that a day has not gone by in the past 2 months when I haven’t thought about him, when I haven’t cried, and when I haven’t felt like my world has been absolutely turned upside down.


There is a big part of me that has a hard time tying any of this into lessons to be learned, because it’s hard to place any kind of closure or conclusion on a hurt that feels so raw and feels that it deserves time to be raw.

But there are two sides of the coin that’s been specifically on my heart this week.

  1. Dads, please love your daughters.

To know me is to know that I deeply loved my Daddy. There were few moments I treasured more than going to lunch with him, seeing a movie with him, or just spending time with him.  I loved doing ministry alongside of him.  I loved watching him love and serve everyone around him so well.

But to know me well is to know that my relationship with my Dad wasn’t always easy.  I was always a Daddy’s girl when I was little.  He was just so captivated by me for no reason at all.  I kind of took advantage of it like any baby girl would.  I remember he got a brand new truck when I was 4 that terrified me because it was so tall.  So to get over my fear, he sat with me in the front seat and showed me how I could press all of the buttons on the radio.  All of his programming was reset and I was sold that I could ride in this big, scary truck after all.

But as I transitioned into being a teenage girl- a dark and scary journey- our relationship became all the more strained.  I blamed him for some issues in my own heart and he had to prioritize some things going on at work and we eventually reached a point that we weren’t even on speaking terms.  It’s hard to imagine now.

But I remember being wrecked by it.  I was so mad at him and so hurt by him, yet desperately craving a relationship with him.  And my Dad, being the loving, selfless guy that he was, talked with a staff member at our church and began pursuing me.  He wrote me letters about what he loved about me.  Things I never thought he noticed.  He found things we could do together and we did them constantly.  He gave me space to talk about ways I was hurt by him and he cried and told me he loved me.

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The thing is, you don’t have to be perfect to be a good Dad.  In a lot of ways, you just have to be there.  And please don’t give up.  Go to her games and recitals and look up from your e-mail on your phone.  Ask her how her day was at dinner.  Spend some time with some of her friends.  Your presence and your interest in your daughter’s life can truly make a world of difference.

The unfortunate truth is that we truly don’t know what tomorrow holds.  I watched my Dad fight for his life on a ventilator for a week until he breathed his last breath.  Despite the fact he was completely brain dead, he fought to keep breathing, until the exact moment I turned 22.  There is something innate inside of you that is roaring to love your little girls.  Don’t let it be stifled by work, busyness, pride, or unforgiveness.  Love her with all you have with all the time you have.

2. Absence teaches you a lot of things.

I never imagined to face an absence this real and this final so soon.   I selfishly would do anything in the world to reverse it.  But it has taught me so very much.

This past year I’ve focused greatly within the context of my job on “identity in Christ” and the concept that we are “image bearers” of Christ (Genesis 1:27).  I’ve said the phrase a million times and talked about how cool it is that we were created to reveal God.

This idea has truly become extremely tangible for me in the past 2 months as I’ve thought of all the ways I bear my Dad’s image.  I don’t exactly look like him.  I kind of look like my mom spat me out.  But gracious, does his personality come out in me more in more.  We are type A to the core, passionate about responsibility, always aware of time and scheduling conflicts, and always talking to ourselves while we work.  I’ve even grown to love the way my ankles sometimes pop just like his did, walking on hardwood floors.  I value these things and seek to resemble his humility, love, and passion to those around me because carrying on his legacy is so very important to me.

It wasn’t until now that I’ve felt not only the honor but the demand to be an image bearer not only of my earthly father but my Heavenly Father, carrying His character to a world that I want to know Him.

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Beyond this, absence magnifies the space that was once filled.  There was nothing about my Dad that was small.  He was a tall guy with a big heart.  He had great big eyes that welled up with great big tears whenever you shared anything with him.  He didn’t do anything small, whether it was loving and serving our family, our Church, or a stranger he came into contact with.

From this big absence, I’ve only come to know and wrestle more and more with just how much we were created for presence, for God’s presence with us in the garden, for the presence of the people around us, for death to never exist, and the grave to never be necessary.

But above all of this, absence makes you treasure.  You treasure what you miss and what you long for.  I treasure my Dad’s generosity and compassion.  I treasure his ability to fix absolutely anything.  I treasure his ability to make me laugh.  I treasure that I had a family for 22 years that was whole.

Absence has taught me that no one has resembled Jesus more to me than my Daddy did in loving me, caring for me, providing for me, protecting me, and relentlessly pursuing me.

Dad’s, you are one of the greatest image bearers of God in your children’s lives.  The week my Dad went on to be with Jesus, my whole family got tattoos of his last recorded heart beats.  I got mine on my right arm in the exact spot where he would have held my arm to walk me down the aisle, should I get married one day.  But right in the middle of those words, I had the word “faithful” written in cursive.  My Dad has truly defined faithfulness for me.  As I was writing his eulogy that I delivered at his funeral, I honestly had to go back and take the word out a couple times because of just how fitting it was.  He was faithful to give his all at work.  He was faithful to serve in the Church.  He was faithful to sacrificially love his family.  He was faithful to honor and love his wife.  He was faithful to always put a smile on your face with a terrible joke he would belly laugh delivering.  He was faithful.

If I’m honest, believing God is faithful has been one of the absolute hardest things for the past 2 months.  It hasn’t really felt true at all.  But if God claims to be faithful and it means anything comparable to the way my Dad was faithful, then I can trust it.


I would give anything for another Father’s Day with him, or any day really.  But as much as my Daddy fought, this was a lack I had to feel and a hurt I had to bear.  And it is one I know I would have never had the strength to face, had my Dad not strengthened me by his love and his presence.  And one I could have never faced without the strength and presence of my Heavenly Father whose image He somehow allows me to bear in my weakness.