Tomorrow is Father’s Day – a day we remember, celebrate, and honor the Fathers in our lives in a special and dedicated way.
A friend asked if this would be a hard day for me [without my dad here for the first time]. At the time I hadn’t really thought about it too much – or at least I hadn’t been allowing myself to.
It’ll be fine…it’s just a day made up by the greeting card and retail companies, right?
Despite the historical story of how we’ve come to celebrate “Father’s Day“, it’s a good opportunity to think about the fathers in our lives and why they deserve recognition and thanks.
I’m sure this day brings all sorts of mixed emotions for many. Fathers come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, love languages and temperaments.
Fathers have gotten a pretty bad rap over the years, especially considering the sad high rate of father-less children around the world. Fathers have been portrayed as just the guy who “brings home the bacon” but then zones out in the recliner with potato chips and beer while mom – or the kids alone – fend for themselves only receiving his attention if they get in his way or make too much noise.
While I’m saddened to know this might be an accurate caricature of many dads it’s not that way for everyone and, I’d say for a majority, it’s quite the opposite.
Even those who didn’t have some fantasy super-star dad, we can’t deny that each of us – even those who have never met their own fathers – have been influenced in some deep and lasting way by our fathers. Our dads make up at least half of who we are, we come from them – they are our root.
And, for those of us who have been blessed to know our dads present in our lives but have recently – or even not-so-recently, “lost them” in death, this is a sensitive day.
For me, this being another “first” without him, I’m more aware of my dad than maybe even before. I’m grateful for the good memories I have of him and I’m trying to focus on those as I hold them even closer to my heart.
Even though he is not “here” for me to tell him so, I feel incredibly grateful for my dad – for the life he gave me, for the way he sacrificed for me and my siblings so we could have a good life and “become better people” as he always prayed at our meal times: “Help make us better people.”
That said, even though it’s almost been six months (which seems like a lot but isn’t really), I miss my dad, very, very much.
The funny thing is that we never really did anything too exciting for Father’s Day with my dad. Maybe a nice meal, I liked to try and make him a special dessert. We usually didn’t go out to eat because my dad didn’t like to “spend that kind of money”. Once I was old enough to earn my own money, I tried getting him a cool new gadget or a new polo shirt and of course I could never go wrong with a package of his favorite chocolate bar – KIT KAT.
This year, though, Father’s Day means almost more to me than when he was physically here because his absence has left a gaping hole – exposing a space in my life that has always just been there…but is now “gone.” I can’t help but notice it.
Whenever I go to his house, I look for him still. I wait for him to come out of his room or up from the basement talking in his thickly accented voice that flooded out anyone else’s. I look for him out in his yard, puttering about in his garden or thinking over things on his bench or sneaking his finger into the candy jar in the kitchen. I think my kids still secretly wish he’d come out and play with them, build those amazing train tracks or fall asleep on the floor with them after reading countless books. We all miss seeing him wave us goodbye from his front porch or try to sneak in one last word through the van window as we hurried on to our next activity or home for bed.
I miss his voice. I miss listening to him interrupt us or go on and on…and on and on…about this or that. I miss being able to ask his advice or opinion, even if I usually received more than his two cents worth in reply.
I miss hearing his dry and calloused bare feet shuffle across the creaky wood floors.
I miss his face, even his worried eyes and furrowed brow. And his thick hair.
I miss it all.
Yet, while all these memories of him make me feel his absence so profoundly and intensely that it fills me with a pain unlike anything else, they also carry a certain…good. These memories make me feel sad for what I don’t have anymore, but they also fill me with a special kind of joy and a deep and sincere gratitude for all the little things I loved – or even disliked – about him that I didn’t really appreciate or give much thought to before.These memories fill my soul to the brim and a wave of sorrow and gratitude spills over.
One of the hardest things I’m learning with loss, is wondering what it’s like for them after death. When my husband travels I can text him or talk to him on the phone and see how his day is like. We can share pictures of our adventures with friends and family miles and oceans apart. But when someone dies, there’s no “Facebook” or Instagram, no long-distance phone service to find out how their journey is going. I sometimes find myself scrolling mindlessly through social media feeds, maybe somehow subconsciously hoping I’ll be able to “find” him there, as silly as that sounds.
I wonder if he can hear me or see me. Maybe it’s like a baby monitor – he can hear and see me, I just can’t receive his transmissions back.
But as I think and pray and reflect and let God speak through the silence of my grief, I realize that if I believe all of us, the living people here, are united with each other through Christ, I suppose those in heaven are still united with us here… In a different way, a deeper way.
It’s a highly sophisticated technology right, Dad? That allows you to be with me in my deepest inner self.
One day, a few weeks after he’d passed away, I was so torn and wished I could go and find him somewhere and just hug him or hold his hand. In my heart, I felt as if my dad said to me –
You don’t need to go anywhere to find me. You don’t need to miss me because I’m right here with you now…in your soul now. And we are connected, joined, now in a deeper way than we could have been before. A better way.
And so, that’s what I cling to. Some would say this is just a psychological survival mechanism to “get me through this”. Maybe so. But so what? I know I can’t prove that my dad is “in my soul” but you know what, it doesn’t matter. I can either choose to believe it or not. I choose to believe he is somehow connected with me still, not only because it makes me feel better, but because in some unexplained mysterious way, I know it’s true. Even though I know there’s nothing I can say to prove it to anyone else.
So, to those who have no father physically present with you on this Father’s Day, let us celebrate and honor them anyway.
Let us remember the good memories. Let us reflect on their lives in a way we couldn’t have before – when we maybe took their presence with us for granted or when we couldn’t see the good through the bad. Let us be thankful – for the gift of our existence and life. Let us forgive any pains or regrets they may have caused us in the past. Let us hold them in our hearts, now, in a special and very intimate way. It’s through the spirit of gratitude that we will find peace and healing.
Here’s to you Dad. I love you. Thank you for being my dad when you were with my physically and now, as you are with me in a new – and maybe even better – way.