One of the things I am most grateful for is having had a father who was present in my life as a child and as an adult. While I don’t know if I realized the significance of this while he was alive, for 33 years I was poured into tremendously and graced with his wisdom and love. As a woman, this has not only set the bar for how I expect to be treated by men, but it is also the standard by which I measure love. Not only was I nurtured by a man who loved God and lived for good eats and good drinks, but I was also raised by a man who embraced life, lived unapologetically and who truly loved his daughters in the most unconditional of ways. I was blessed with a father who nurtured my soul. I never had to wonder if I was loved. I always knew I was.
Two days before my dad passed away, I was awakened in the middle of the night with a thought that was so crystal clear it made me sit straight up in bed. “You know… your father is the only man who has ever loved you unconditionally?” “Huh … that was weird,” I thought as I rolled the message over in my head in the still of the night and went back to sleep.
The next day, the significance of that thought was not lost on me. Why was I awakened out of my peaceful rest with a random thought from left field? That afternoon, while joking around with my dad about the happenings of my day, I shared my midnight revelation with him. “The strangest thing happened last night,” I shared the story with him and when I was done I thanked him.“Thank you for loving me unconditionally,” I said. He chuckled and I imagine he blushed before rushing me off the phone … “Yeah, yeah, yeah … I’ll talk to you later.”
Oddly enough, we had another conversation later that night about a dating prospect who misspelled “angel” in his message to me on a popular online site. “To my sweet angle” the message read. “Seriously?!!!,” I whined. “You see what I’m up against?,” I joked with him, as we shared a laugh about my return to the dating scene. He politely ended the conversation by telling me that he needed to get to bed so that he could go to work in the morning. Though morning would come, unbenownst to me he would not be there to see it.
That was my last conversation in life with my dad. And two short days later the meaning of the midnight revelation would be clear. I would later realize God gave me the gift of knowing so that I could say what needed to be said. And as such, I have never longed for closure or needed it. Instead, I’ve just needed strength to get through each day.
In the blur of those first days of funeral planning, hosting friends and relatives through mind numbing pain and walking through the traumatic haze of losing a loved one, my mind returned over and over again to all of the conversations we had had about losing someone you love. My dad had literally given me the road map to walking through the process of pain and loss, and in so doing he had given me one of life’s most precious gifts. “When your time comes,” he would tell me. “God will give you a supernatural strength. I can’t explain it, but it’ll be there. He will give you the strength to move on.” That never made sense to me, but he was right. And little did we both know that those very conversations would be the source of that supernatural strength when it was needed most.
In those early days and for the last eight years, this strength has come right on time. In the walk down the funeral procession aisle while holding my mother’s arm to steady her gait, in the midnight hours when grappling to simply make sense of the loss, and every day since then, I hear my dad’s voice clearly whispering his life lessons in my ear and anchoring me with a supernatural love. “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And when life gives you lemonade drink it.” “Be a duck. Sometimes you just have to let stuff roll off of your back.” … “Hey… I didn’t come here to kiss no babies.” These sound bites of our time together find me everyday and are one of my life’s greatest blessings.
It’s funny. I never realized that you could feel closer to someone in death than in life, but that has indeed been the case for me. I guess when you can no longer see, touch and feel a person, you are more easily able to recognize their imprint on your life and make peace with their presence. And through these memories his spirit remains. So when I miss him, I only have to call his name and he will answer. When I need him, I need only write a simple letter, talk to him through my prayers or ask God to comfort me and within hours, literally hours, I will find him right there speaking to me in the core of my heart, in the middle of my dreams or in fleeting memories just as if he were here. As I am guided this way, I am reminded that love never fails and each time my soul is filled with sweet joy as I realize this type of everlasting love is accessible to me at any time.
Because of him, it is easier for me to move forward in life without regret or apology. After all, “When your number’s up… your number’s up.” And so when I hear his goofy laugh or see his big belly jiggling in my mind’s eye, I immediately feel the love packed into each one of those memories. And as such, I thank God for giving me a father who though broken, gave me life and all of the love he had, but most of all I am thank Him for the gift of His strength and enduring love.