Remembering Dad

by Laura on October 29, 2010

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.

And that’s why I’m glad I have the picture.

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?

Comment

  • Kim Starnes

    Your Dad was a spiritual giant in my life Laura. He was the first Bible teacher I had as a young Christian. He made the Word come alive for me. What a gentle giant.I am forever grateful for the mark He made on my heart and the influence over my walk. Thank you for letting us remember with you today. Love You Guys!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Kim, Thanks for taking the time to leave kind words–even after 24 YEARS. Hard to believe it’s been that long, and that people still remember him is a real gift. Reckon he shaped us both, in different ways.

      Thanks so much, from here . . .

      Laura

  • http://Facebook Rebekah

    With tears in my eyes and joy in my heart I remember with you!What a treasure of a man your dad was! Thanks for the picture you painted today.

    Rebekah

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Thanks for taking time to comment, and thanks for being one of the treasured people that have a real-life visual to this certain post. What a gift to remember with others . . . .

  • elizabeth samamra

    Thinking of you on this special day of remembrance, Laura. What a truly beautiful story.

  • Anne-Marie Winter

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Laura. It is amazing to me how similar our stories are with loss. My mom passed away when I was 7 and just as you are having trouble remembering the details of your dad, I hate that I can’t remember the details of my mom as well. All the memories are just a little hazy. But I remember certain aspects of her face when I put blush on my high cheekbones that came directly from her genes; I remember her ability to forgive those who hurt her seemingly unforgivably when I struggle with forgiveness; I remember her unyielding love of her family when I remember the day she went to be with the Lord after a year of fighting cancer for her life and her family; and I remember her never wavering love of her Savior when I read some of her favorite verses and recall her singing praises to God from her hospital bed.

    What amazing parents we had whose prayers for us are still with our Father in Heaven who continues to answer them even so many years after they joined Him there. Praying for you today as you honor your dad by remembering him and sharing his story.

    –Anne-Marie

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Oh, sweet friend. Yes, I guess we have both tasted a bit of the same thing. Amazing how even if we can’t remember specifics like we would like, we KNOW that their shaping of us in those young years is undeniable . . . and still has impact, still.

      Reckon your mom and my dad are hanging out right now?

      Love you friend,
      Beautiful one,
      Laura

      • Anne-Marie Winter

        I definitely think they are hanging out and praising Jesus together right now! And of course they shaped us in those early years. I know that we are who we are today because of the love, teaching, and all around good parenting we got from our parents even way back then. :) Love you girl and praying for you and your family.

        –AM

        • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

          Ditto, girl. Thanks for sharing about your mom. I know she was a beautiful, strong, grace-full woman of God. Quite a powerful heritage you have, there.

  • Noel

    I enjoyed reading this post and I feel like I know your dad even though I never met him. The stories I’ve been told by chapel folk make hime come alive. Thanks again.

  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com/ kendal

    A beautiful post. Remembering is important. I thought of my nephew today – he passed away 10 months ago at age 22. His name was Cameron, and I was helping my students learn a little about Cameroon. One letter difference. And I, like you, want to go look at the pictures.

    • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com/ kendal

      I mean “…I was helping mys students learn a little about Cameroon TODAY.”

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Wow, Kendal. A neat “coincidence”, right? It’s so powerful to just not forget. To let the daily reminders (like teaching about a close-sounding country) matter. I know for the people who have tasted the loss most closely, the value of having others REMEMBER is huge–and definitely outweighs the awkwardness of mentioning the loss in the first place, dontcha think?

      So sorry to hear of your newphew. 22 is so, so young.

  • http://29lincolnavenue.com Stacey

    This is a beautiful legacy post. Of the your dad, and of your daughter. His faith, lives on. He would be so proud! May you feel the nearness of the Lord today!

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Thanks, Stacey. I like that “a legacy post.” It makes me think about what my kids would say about me. Makes me wonder what kind of legacy I am leaving. What memories and adjectives would my daughter write about me, should she become a blogger one day? :)

  • Mary Lee Moritz

    You’re blessed to know so much truth about your Daddy, Laura, even though you can’t remember everything you’d like to. Your thoughts about him, and the precious life he lived on this earth, and the legacy of love that he left his family and friends released a flood of tears from my eyes. It’s a blessing to hear your grateful heart. I think you’re your Daddy’s daughter, and I’m sure he’s witnessing your life from heaven with a smile on his face, laughter in his heart, and a deep pride in his daughter, with thanksgiving to a good and loving Father who gave you to him to be his daughter for all eternity. Thank you for sharing from the depths of your loss, Laura. Your faith, hope, and love are so inspiring.

  • http://proverbs31ishwoman.wordpress.com brittany

    Laura, you have a way of writing that just makes me cry, all the time.
    The people I remember most haven’t passed on yet, they just aren’t a part of my life anymore. They’ve moved on, or we’ve had to say goodbye for different reasons, and my bittersweet memories come back now and again. Remembering those wonderful times only remind me that they are over, and with one in particular we will never have anything like that ever again. Moving past those memories can be so difficult for me, but I know that I can’t just ignore them either. Letting them come when they will is okay, but moving on is an essential part of the remembering for me too.

  • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

    Absolutely

    If we always look back, our forward walk won’t be nearly what it should be.

    Perfect, important, point.

    And, also important that sometimes the letting-go is with someone still very much alive.

    Hope you are hanging in there, girl.

    L

  • Amy

    There is nothing worth sharing more than the love that let us share our name. love you, LL.

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Potentially one of the greatest quotes, ever.

      And, I agree, of course.
      love you, sis,
      L

  • Joe Joseph

    Laura….
    Joe jr., forwarded this to me this morning, knowing it would touch me very deeply….and it has.
    I know that your dad cast a big shadow, and a VERY wide net of influence, but I doubt anyone was influenced any more than I was. You see, he was my best friend in the whole world. I was led to The Lord through him, and discipled by him…. and even beyond that, he was involved in my life in so many ways….practically on a daily basis. I cannot recall all of the times he would show up at my office with a bag of special trail mix that we both loved, and we would just go to a park and sit on a bench and talk….about life, God, our families, the challenges of pastoring, being a dad, raising little kids, our wives…..anything and everything. I learned volumes from your dad about how to glorify God in our living as well as our dying. Even now, it is impossible for me to speak about him without tearing up…and choking up. Your dad was, and is, and incredible influence in my life and, by extension, on my family and all who have been within MY sphere of influence since meeting, knowing and loving him. I still think of him often, which may seem totally weird to some. One is not blessed to have many friends like I have in Steve. In fact, so far I can say that it has been a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. He was totally dedicated as a husband and father, and is a worthy model for other husbands and fathers, and Ed picked up where Steve left off. He cast a big shadow then….and still does. Thanks for sharing the photo. Blessings to you and your family.
    Peace and Grace…..Joe

    • http://www.lauraleighparker.com Laura

      Mr. Joseph,

      You can not know what it means to me that you took the time to share a few memories/thoughts about my dad. I told my husband that I was gifted in your writing because you gave me another memory of him, that I don’t have and didn’t know, but that paints a fuller picture of the man he was. I am grateful for that, since I do struggle with specific “memories” of him.

      Thank you for missing him. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to be impacted, even 24 years ago. It’s amazing that it’s been that long. And thanks for loving him well through his final days on earth. I still remember spending the night at your house the night he actually died. Still remember as a kid not understanding why in the world everyone downstairs was so solemn.

      Thanks for walking that part of our family’s journey with us. We were gifted by it.

      Hope you and the kids and Duree are doing wonderfully.

      We’ll maybe see you in Hickory next time we are in town!

      Thanks, again, Mr. Joseph,

      Laura

  • http://marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    My heart aches for you, Laura. Love you!

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  • Debby A.

    So, I’ve been a little stalker-ish on your blog, and have wanted to comment on most of them.  My husband and 5 kids are leaving in August to begin our training with New Tribes Mission, and I would like to know at least a LITTLE of what we’re getting ourselves into;)  But this post cut to this little girl’s heart.  I can relate because it’s partly my story.  My dad was 34 when he died of cancer, leaving a family of 4 kids.  He was a pastor, and a farmer.  Tall, dark, handsome, strong, truly a shepherd.  Unlike you, I am the only girl, with 3 brothers, and I was 12 when he died in 1986.  I have my own family, and seem to miss him more as the years progress.  I will always feel a bit like an orphan I guess, always feeling like I’m missing “something”.  My dad too modeled all the things you mentioned, and I felt like you were writing ABOUT my dad.  Anyway, thanks for sharing that. I wrote this about my dad a while ago.   http://god-directedfootsteps.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2010-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2011-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=2

    • lauraparkerblog

      Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your story Debby. Sounds like our dads would have be friends.

      So neat that you are heading to the mission field. Where are ya’ll going to be serving or do you know yet? I know you are in the process of transition, and that is so hard. And exciting all at the same time. Hope you will stop by again– would love to follow you in your journey!

      Love from here,
      Laura

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