A Letter to My Dad

8:39 AMHeather

Dear Dad,

It's hard to believe that it's been 25 years today. In some ways, it doesn't seem that long since I said good-bye. And in some ways, it feels as though it was another life time when I was able to call you, talk to you, spend time with you.  An entire lifetime has happened since the day you met Jesus face-to-face.

I finished Baylor. Debt free. (And I went on to graduate school). That was a miracle. A "who but God?" story -- that a fatherless teenager on her own financially might come out of Baylor without a single loan. But God is faithful that way. And that is something I've learned in ways I wouldn't have otherwise. 

Because when I lost you, I began to find the Father heart of God. When I lost you, I began to write long letters to God--when I was supposed to be studying. I'd pour out my anger and frustration and desperation and pleading cries onto paper. And a funny thing happened along the way. I began to feel as though my long frenzied script were not being directed at a brick wall. But a softening took place. And I began to know God as I had never known him before. I began to see him as my Abba Father.

At first--and for quite awhile--it made no sense to me that I should lose you. That such a Godly, humble, good, kind and compassionate man should die. It felt senseless. No matter how I computed it in my mind, it just never added up to anything that made sense.

But gradually, I began to see. In time, my eyes were open. And I realized that I would never have developed the dependency and relationship with my Heavenly Father that has become so personal and so powerful and so integral if I hadn't lost my earthly father. 

It's some of the "good" that came...some of the "all things work together for good to those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). 

My marriage is another. Because there, when I felt loneliest and most abandoned and like an orphan...there was a boy. A boy with your kind heart and your integrity and your compassion and your just extraordinary love for others. In fact, I met him just days before you died. And he, in fact, was the last person I saw on Baylor campus as I rushed to your bedside to say good-bye. So I had asked him to pray for me as I sped away.

He's still praying for me. All the time. Because he is my husband. And over the years, I know that my security and dependence and our identity as a couple would not be the same if it hadn't been born in such a dark time in my life. The roots that grew as he held me through my storm have grounded me and our family in these last 25 years. And I feel confident they are deep enough for the rest of my days. 

Who but God enables someone to come into your mess and love you without condition? Who but God could begin to blossom a lifelong romance just when another flower is fading?

You would like Chris. I think you'd be rather tight with each other. And sometimes, I feel the stab of pain that I never got to introduce the two most important men in my life to each other. That you never walked me down the aisle. That you never brushed back my wedding veil to kiss my cheek as you offered my hand to another. 

But then I remember this. I see it as a relay. In the race of my life, God in his infinite wisdom, had you hand off the baton to the next man in my life. For reasons I still don't completely see. But I will trust they are there. I will choose to trust that it has all had a purpose.

Aside from my husband, I wish I could have introduced you to my children. I wish you could have been in the hospital room, with those fresh bundles from heaven placed in your arms. One generation holding the next. I wish you could have rocked them to sleep and taken them fishing and taught them important things in life. I wish you could know Collin's quiet and serving leadership -- so much like yours. I wish you had been next to him on the couch for all the hours he has spent watching the Military History channel. I wish for the long conversations about World War II and the other common interests you both have. 

I wish you could know Cooper's confidence and resourcefulness and incredibly big personality. He would crack you up with his sense of humor, and you would appreciate his penchant for storing facts and discussing current events. You would have clapped the loudest at his theater performances and football games and choir concerts. And I still can't put my finger on it...that thing about him that tugs at my heart in unexpected moments because it so reminds me of you. When those flashes of recognition happen, I wish you were here to help me identify what exactly it is.

And Caris. Our little unexpected miracle. You would have been over the moon for that precious beautiful girl who shocked us with her arrival into the world. You always were an amazing dad to girls. What an incredible grandfather to her you would have been. And she would have eaten up the hours in your lap, being read to and snuggled. 

I wish you could see all the grandkids...these six who will carry on the family legacy. These six whom we have tried to teach faithfully to trust in our Heavenly Father, just as you taught your girls. 

Oh I've lost many days wishing for the what was not to be. I've cried buckets and asked questions and demanded of God the answers to all of my questions. I've played the role of victim and I've wrapped my identity in the things that happened to me. I've anguished over the unfairness of it all.

But here's what I want to tell you. Here's what I want you to know. 

I've found a peace. 

I've found a way to co-exist with the pain of the loss and the void that you left. I'm not angry anymore.  I've settled in. I've been able to gain the vision to see that I have been held by my Abba Father through every last moment of my life. He has held me close and he has patiently comforted me through the hardest days. He has reached into my darkness with a small pinprick of hope. He has shown up, time and again, when I wasn't sure I was on speaking terms with him. 

Dad, he has been all that you said he was.

He has been faithful and true. He has been sufficient. He has grown me and shown me more of who he is through the pain of losing you. When I thought it would all consume me, he was there. 

And He has become more precious and dear to me than I would have known had I not lost you. Because I've had the miracle of being held by a Father when I lost my dad.

Even now--as I near the age you were when you died--I see him more clearly all the time. And I remember your words when you heard your terminal diagnosis.

For to me, to live is Christ. And to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

I want you to know that there has been gain, after all. In the dark places where I only saw loss initially. There has been gain.

And that is enough. 

So until we meet again for all of eternity...know that I'm okay.

I still miss you. Sometimes so fresh it's like it just happened. But I no longer wrestle against that void. I live with it and see ways it has been to my benefit, for God's glory.

And it is well with my soul.

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