This post about grieving the loss of a father, is dedicated to my mother, who clung-anyway, my secondfather, who truly stepped-in, and my three siblings, who are cut-from-the-same-cloth.
My daughter is seven-years-old. She’s dramatic and beautiful and sensitive. She thinks about kittens and is saving money to buy a horse. She loves to dance. She’s growing into herself, but, in so many ways, she’s still so very small.
And they say a child’s personality and character is largely formed in their earliest years, and so I pray her wet-cement-heart has been shaped well by these clumsy hands of mine. She’s only seven, after all, and to think that a vital piece of my parenting job has been completed already is a sobering thought. And I wonder what her memories will be of her years on earth, thus far. I wonder if she’ll remember the times I yelled at her and lost my temper. I wonder if she’ll be marked by the bad decision to let her watch that too-scary movie which resulted in nightmares. I wonder if she’ll remember all the times I told her she was beautiful, and I wonder if she’ll, ever, really believe me. I wonder what lessons she’ll carry with her, from these seven years, into her adult life. Will it be faith? Or a commitment to family? A desire for material things? Or a television habit?
What have these hands, truly, impressed on her? What ways have I loved and lead that will go the distance in her own Story?
This is the only picture I have with me in SE Asia of my natural dad. He died of cancer when I was a young girl of seven years– blond pigtails, peacemaker-heart, called in true Southern fashion,”Laura Leigh.” And this weekend we celebrate his Heavenly Homecoming, as my mom always says. And I’m sitting here in the early morning dark, and I am trying to remember specific memories of this giant of a man–pastor, tender-heart, Shepherd, jokester. And it’s fuzzy and foggy and vague, and I hate that. I hate that my 32-year-old brain can’t come up with a 20/20-clear moment when he was tucking me in at night or playing Capture with us in the backyard.
Because I know he did those things. I know he prayed over me, and I know he held me as a baby when my mom was chasing my older brother around. I know he tickled me as a toddler, and I know he took me on daddy-daughter dates where I dressed up and sometimes got flowers. I know he kissed my mother in the kitchen when he came home from work at the church, and I know he laughed a lot from the pulpit. But I can’t, truly, close my eyes and see those images in my mind.
Because even if I can’t remember well the moments of my childhood with my father, it reminds me of the shaping that his hands and life had on my little-girl heart. It’s the photo of a daddy, baptizing his oldest daughter, in a quiet lake in North Carolina, with a blood-and-spirit family gathered ’round. And even if I can’t remember the moment itself, I hold to the truth that what he passed on to me, stuck. He spoke love and security and largeness-of-life into the wet-cement of me. He taught honesty and service and grace. And he modeled a faith, in his life and, most especially, in his dying, that I can’t walk away from.
“Seek the Kingdom of God first,” he taught, and then he showed in
the way neighborhood kids would knock on our door and ask if “Big Steve” could come out to play,
the way he lived Shepherd, at home and in Community,
the way he suffered at the end, without complaint from weak lips,
and the way he lifted me out of water–and into life–with gentle, strong hands.
Thanks for reading today, friends, and for allowing me to share an integral piece of my family’s Story. Remembering is important, isn’t it?
Do you have someone in your life you’d like to remember today? Would you share a way that they impacted you in their years on earth?