Early on a Sunday morning, October 22, 1995, my life was forever changed. Dan and I were in bed when the ringing of the phone jolted us out of our deep slumber just before dawn. I could hear my mothers quivering voice on the answering machine pleading with us to pick up the phone. As I jumped out of bed and lunged to get the phone my heart began to pound and my mind raced wildly with thoughts of what could be wrong. She slowly and painfully told me that my Dad had died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. I felt the tears well up in my eyes and begin to fall uncontrollably onto my dresser as I struggled to catch my breath. I simply could not believe that I was actually hearing those words. My dear father was gone and I would never see him, hear him or touch him again this side of heaven. As I fell back into bed, Dan held me close and the tears flowed as he tried to comfort me. I knew in that moment that my life would be altered forever.
You never really “get over” the death of a parent. (and I can imagine it would be even more so if you lose a child). You learn to live with it but you do not get over it. They are a part of your very being. You grieve many times over – holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and even in the “everyday” routines, habits and life happenings that bring back memories of that beloved parent. I find myself often wondering – “what would Dad think about this or that”? Just in the past month alone I have pondered what his thoughts would be about:
- this years election and all it’s historic happenings (Obama – the first Black man to run for the Presidency, Sarah Palin as the first woman on the Republican ticket)
- John McCain (they were classmates at the United States Naval Academy both in the Class of 1958)
- the war in Iraq (he was a career Navy man who worked many years in Naval Intelligence during the Cold War)
- the signs of socialism in our country (ok, so I don’t have to wonder about this – he would be having a fit!)
- Michelle attending college in NYC
- the girls and their high school sports achievements (he rarely missed one of my high school field hockey games)
- the new baby boy in our family (oh how he loved babies!)
I also would have called him for advice on
- how to get my “ancient” car to pass its smog inspection?
- every aspect of the the new addition in our home (he was the handiest of handy men)
- computer challenges (he was an expert computer whiz long, long long before everyone had several in their homes – alas I did not take advantage of this expertise)
- how to get my kids to learn math?
My Dad was an awesome man and an exceptional husband and father. He loved the Lord, was a faithful church member (read here – we never missed a Sunday church service and always sat together as a family) and his knowledge of the Bible was impressive (I often wondered if he had the entire thing memorized). He lived a life of integrity, hard work and commitment. He loved my Mom and was faithful and committed to his marriage for 35 years – “until death do us part”. The word divorce was never heard or spoken in our home – that security had an indelible effect on all of our lives. (The four of us children are in committed marriages with a grand total of 74 years between us all! We are believing for that legacy & blessing to be passed down to the next generation of 15 grandchildren.)
He was the most wonderful father and I was the beneficiary of his love and admiration. He made me feel special. I was the “middle” child (is there really a middle of four?) – my older sister was the first born, the other middle child was my brother – the only boy, and my younger sister who came along a bit later than the three of us was the “baby”. This gave me a reason in my mind to feel different, left out, inferior etc… Of course when I hit adolescence these feelings, no matter how unfounded, were magnified. My Dad always had a way of reminding me that he too was a middle child and that I had a very special place in his heart. He would smile with his eyes, give me a wink and a bear hug and all those feelings would melt away. No matter what I did or how I acted – my Daddy loved me. He disciplined me strictly when I was disobedient, defiant or disrespectful but it was always followed up with love and forgiveness. He showed me my first glimpse of how God the Father loved & adored me. I know that my incredible ease in loving and trusting the Lord is because my Dad was such a stellar example of God’s unconditional love, trustworthiness and strength.
My Dad believed in me, supported me, challenged me to do beyond my best and had high expectations of me. He also treated me like a princess – he would pick me up and twirl me around in the living room to the songs of Ed Aames and Andy Williams, he opened doors for me always treating me like a lady and he would admire and tell me often how beautiful I was.
He filled my need for love and affection with his kind words (often found in his greeting cards that he personally picked out & signed), his bear hugs and sweet goodnight kisses. He showed me how I should be treated by a man – that I should expect to be cherished, loved, protected and admired.
As I grew into an adult he continued to be a source of wisdom, strength and love for not only me but my husband and my children. He was an awesome father-in-law and the most amazing “Papa” (the name my eldest daughter Michelle gave him – although he was “Grandad” to the older cousins) in the world. He would rock my babies for hours on end and when they got older he would take them to the park to play and out to ice cream.
I so regret that only Michelle really got to know him and has memories to cherish (she was 6 when he died) ….the rest thankfully do get to experience him through our photo albums, stories and in the lives of their Granny, their aunts & uncle and myself who carry on his presence in our hearts, attitudes and actions.
Today on the 13th anniversary of his passing, I wanted to share just a bit of my Dad with the world, as not only a tribute to him, but hopefully as an inspiration to everyone who reads this blog – especially the fathers out there. Dads, please know that you are so very vital in your children’s lives and it is so important that you become a faithful man of God. Spend time with your children – play with them, talk to them, hug them, tell them how much you love, cherish and believe in them. Be a role model for them to look up to and set a standard of excellence. You will have a lasting impact on your children and your children’s children – be diligent to make sure it is a positive legacy.
I was, am and always will be…”Daddy’s Girl”
I love you and miss you each and everyday of my life. I look forward to seeing you again and feeling your warm loving arms wrap around me as we rejoice together for eternity in heaven!
Always your girl – Beth (although my Dad was the only one who called me Virginia – my real name – and it wasn’t because he was mad at me – then it was – Virginia Elizabeth!)
This is our last family photo together – Summer 1995 (and yes I am “great with child” -my 13 year old Rebekah). I just have to add as we are coming into a holiday season – don’t pass up an opportunity to have a family photo taken while you are all together – we never know when it might be our last time together here in this life.