At the end of this month, it will have been a year since my father died. A year since I last heard his voice, saw his face, and laughed with him. A year since he entered heaven and was healed forever from the terrible disease of dementia.
It doesn’t seem like it’s been a year, and at the same time, it feels like the longest time. I think of all the things I wish I could have shared with him over the past year – of working at a Christian school, of getting my article published, of birthdays and holidays, the birth of another granddaughter, of so many current events that I wish I could hear his perspective on.
And even today, as I was singing “It Is Well” in church, I could almost hear his beautiful tenor voice singing along with me – and picture how he used to lean over and say, “Hey, I like this one!” when one of his favorite hymns would come up.
These memories flood my mind at random times. I think about him pouring some cereal for his evening meal on Sunday and making some toast with hardly any butter on it. Or as I buy pumpkin seeds at the store, I think of how he used to eat them for a snack all the time – and how proud he’d be that I’m eating healthy.
I see his verse card box, worn around the edges, and I think about how he’d sit in the recliner in the evenings and go over his verses – and how when I memorized Philippians that one time, we quoted it to each other back and forth.
I think about going for walks in the evening, going to baseball games together in the summer, going on the Ferris Wheel with him at the fair in the fall, shoveling snow with him in the winter, and singing hymns together around the piano as a family.
And I realized the other day when someone asked if my parents live in town, and I said, “Yes, my mom does,” that I’m one of those people now who don’t have a father. I believe I do – I believe he’s in heaven and his spirit is alive and well – but here on earth, I’m half an orphan. I am “fatherless” as the Bible speaks of.
And this produces an ache that is hard to even articulate. The longing to have my dad’s protective arms around me again is overwhelming at times – because God created us to know that love of a father which reflects his own love.
I am incredibly grateful that I did get to know the love of my father for 32 years. So many people have never known that love at all, and their ache is far greater than my own. Every memory that we formed together is something I lean back on in the lonely, grieving times.
But at the same time, I mourn the many years ahead that will be lived without my daddy in them. Every experience I have without my dad will have that bit of shadow around it that signifies his absence.
And this is why the church is called to specially love the widows, the orphans, and the fatherless – to wrap its arms around them and pull them into the family of God with the heart of the Father. And I feel that from my own church. I feel that from the men in my life who have stepped in to love me like a father – who give me wisdom and encouragement, who help meet my practical needs, and who remind me that I’m not alone.
I’m also grateful for my mother, now the stable head of our family, who has continued to love her children and be there for us even through her own grieving. Her faithful, constant presence in my life gives me peace and comfort and keeps pointing me back to Christ.
Christ, our anchor. Christ, our faithful Shepherd who guides us through the dark valleys of grieving and loss. Like the song “It’s Always Been You” by Phil Wickham says,
“You are the voice that calms the storm inside me
Castle walls that stand around me
All this time, my guardian was You.”
Christ is there to catch my tears, hold me in my sorrow, and promise that one day it will come to an end. His resurrection conquered the hold of death and ensures that I will get to see my father again one day. My dad believed this firmly, and now it’s what gives me the greatest hope.
I can’t wait for that day when we’re reunited again.