Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dear Daddy

Dear daddy,

It’s the week of Father’s Day and I couldn’t be more ready to jump on an airplane to come visit you and say all these words to you face to face.  Instead, I had to jump on an airplane to go stand with my friend who had to bury her daddy just a few days ago.  One day her kids were playing Legos with him and the next he was suddenly gone. 

I know you know that feeling too because your own daddy leaned over and kissed your mom that unsuspecting day when he came to visit her in the nursing home, and as soon as his lips touched her head he went home to be with Jesus. 

People leave us suddenly – with no warning.  It could be you or I next – who knows?  What I do know is that I don’t want to leave anything unsaid.  I know I always tell you “I love you” when I see you or talk to you, and I mean those words with everything in me.  But I can’t help thinking that maybe, just maybe you don’t know all the heart, all the love, all the emotion that goes behind them.  And I don’t want either of us to ever leave this earth without really knowing that we said it all – or at least we tried. 

My friend Lindsey and I sat together under the moonlight in her backyard a few nights ago with her daddy’s Bible and a box full of letters that he had written her over the years.  We went through his Bible that had notes etched on every page with dates and places next to verses that meant something to him.  His prayers for himself and his family were written in the back of his Bible.  I know that for years to come that Bible will be a piece of him left for Lindsey to guide her and speak to her through the very pain and joys he himself went through.  As I looked at his handwriting all I could think of was yours – that super neat and legible left handed scrawl that is visible in every book you have ever read and every legal pad laying around your house.  I kept thinking about all the wisdom stored up in that mind and heart of yours, and am fully aware that only a fraction of it has ever made it to paper.  I know there will come a day where I will sit and run my fingers over your handwriting in your Bible and cherish it with all my heart.  But today, I simply cherish you.

I cherish the fact that from a very young age I knew you loved me.  The countless pictures of you making faces and being silly with me when I was a baby… I know I must have been a lot of hard work, but you’d never know it from how in love with me you look in those pictures.  I cherish the countless bike rides through Madeira, Ohio – down Thomas Drive to the convenience store for an ice cream cone; the thousands of times I felt the whiz of a softball in my ball glove that you tossed to me; all the sawing and staining and hammering you did to make us a tree house in the apple tree in the back yard – remember us sleeping out there on summer nights?   I cherish all the camping trips and state parks you took us to; the LONG drives down to Florida where you blew up a raft and spent hours with us kids out in the waves while we screamed and giggled and loved every second of it.  There was just never a time I remember you not being with me.  If you had free time after work, you were with your family.  I know I took your steady presence for granted – I just thought everyone’s daddy was like you.    

I cherish all those Sundays standing next to you in church listening to your voice singing hymns, all those car rides where you’d be driving and reach around to tickle me, every Sunday morning that you made toaster strudel and I thought it was the greatest thing ever.  I love that you are a learner – you always have been.  You suck down books like air and always have stories to tell from what you’ve read.  I love that you introduced me to Frederick Buechner and Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen.  I love that you have this ability to single out the person in the room who just needs to be seen and heard and you have them sharing their story in no time flat. 

I cherish the fact that your full head of red hair is now a beautiful silver gray thanks to me and my siblings.   All the times I did stupid, ridiculous things that cost you sleep, tears and near heart attacks – you just loved me through them.  I’m sure I’ll never know all the prayers you prayed on my behalf, all the tears you shed for me, and all the times you thought your heart would explode from me finding my own way in this world. 

And then there’s the way you love my kids.  All the walks in the strollers when they were little, all the pushes on the swings, all the books that have been read, all the Legos that have been built, all the tractor rides that have been taken, all the Ernest movies that have been watched, all of the diapers that have been changed, all the cries that have been calmed, all the laughter that you have brought out of them.   As much as you adore them, they adore you.  Your love is strong and steady and sure. 

One of the biggest things I cherish about you is that you don’t presume to have all the answers.  You have your experiences that have shaped your beliefs as well as your doubts.  I find such comfort in knowing that you don’t have it all together - it gives me hope that I don’t have to.  You bring to the table all of who you are – your gifts, your joys, your failures, your sorrows, and you just are who you are.  I wouldn’t have you any other way. 

But the very best, most fantastic thing about you, daddy, is that you know Who you belong to, and that one thing has shaped not only your life, but all the lives you touch and will touch, including mine.  God has met you and made such a mark on your life that it in turn marks those around you in such beautiful ways.  The biggest gift you have ever given me is to point me to Jesus.  He has radically and beautifully changed my life.  I didn’t know it was possible to love Him like this - I didn’t know it was possible to be loved like this.  I am forever grateful to you for living and breathing the love of God.  Thank you seems trite, but I mean those two words with all my heart. 

Thank you for being a daddy I can be proud of and grateful for.  I love you for all the reasons I just wrote and then a heap more.  Happy Father’s Day, Papa.  You are loved more than I can say.  XOXO.

*And to anyone reading this who wonders if it even matters if you say the words that you feel - SAY THEM.  For the sake of all that is precious and important - just SAY THEM.   Even if it means you say them while tension is in the air or there are unresolved issues. SAY THEM.  Even if you're not sure you've forgiven that person or they haven't forgiven you.  Please.  Just SAY THEM.   

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