I attended a funeral last week of a man I never met. He was the father of a friend of ours in church, and I went to support my friend. Sitting there, hearing of the legacy of this great man, my heart ached fresh.
My father died when I was ten years old. A slip of a child I was back then. Skinny. Skinned knees. Needy. Broken. Lost. In the middle of that inadequacy stew, I heard the news. Fifth grade me without a father.
The world pulled itself from underneath me then. I fell on my backside, bruising my heart for years and years and years. It’s not easy being a fatherless girl.
My father, Jim, used to haunt my dreams. He’d be alive in Africa, tending a garden, telling me he’d just moved away and hadn’t died. The funeral had been a sham to cover up his escape.
I believed he lived when I dreamed. But the moment I woke up, the reality of his voicelessness kept me humbled and sad.
He didn’t live to see awkward me in junior high, hugging the walls of my cafeteria, waiting for boys to ask me to dance. (They didn’t.) He didn’t read my suicide poetry. Didn’t rejoice when I met Jesus at fifteen. Didn’t see me graduate high school or college. Didn’t walk me down the aisle. Didn’t hold his grandchildren. Didn’t give sage advice about being grown up. He, the overly gifted author, never held one of my books in his hands.
On this Memorial Day, I remember my flawed, messy father. And I miss him. And a little of me still mourns.
And in that broken place, oh how it breaks afresh, I reach for my Father’s hand. The One who never leaves. The One who stood by me at dances, who lamented my suicidal thoughts. The One who nabbed me from this crazy world at fifteen and chose me for His kingdom. The One who gave me gumption to graduate and succeed. The One who healed my broken heart enough to entrust myself to marriage. The One who parented me well so I could parent my children. The One who gave me a grace-filled, outrageously miraculous life–one worthy of writing about. The One who penned stories through me.
I celebrate my father and my Father today. Bittersweet and beautiful.