I wasn’t anticipating all the emotions I’m feeling right now. As I was putting the girls to bed my patience was thin. They’re three and five and they were acting like children who are three and five… nothing too out of the ordinary. They were tired and squirrely. Sadly I wasn’t dealing well. As my little one was brushing her teeth I called my older daughter into the bathroom. She didn’t want to come. “Why?” she questioned me.
“You’re not in trouble,” I told her. “I just need to talk to you both for a minute.” She walked in to stand by the sink with us. “Girls,” I began, “tomorrow is a special day. It’s called Father’s Day. It’s a day to be thankful for good dads and they will be talking about that when we go to church tomorrow. How does that make you feel?”
(Chris and tiny Abbi 2013)
Abbi, age five, piped up immediately. “It makes me feel kind of sad because I can’t give my daddy a present for Father’s Day.” Having just gone through Mother’s Day in May, this was a pretty fresh concept in her mind.
Aurora, age three, chimed in. “And it makes me feel kind of sad because I can’t see my daddy. But I can see my daddy in pictures of him and of you.” She smiled as she finished that thought. I agreed with her that this was correct.
Abbi also said, “I’m sad that I can’t go to church with Daddy either.”
I told the girls it was okay to feel sad and miss their daddy, but I also said, “Let’s try to think of good memories of Daddy tomorrow, too.”
Abbi said, “Well, I can’t really remember many things with Daddy.” This is true. She was only 16 months old when he died. So I decided to fill in some gaps for the girls.
(Abbi "hopping on pop" 2013)
“Daddy used to call you Bitty Baby or Baby-Gale, Abbi. He used to tickle you because he loved making you laugh. When I worked at night, he would wake up and feed you your bottles.” She liked hearing about this. I continued with other random facts about him. After all, we were married for eight years but together for a total of eleven. I knew the man well. “His favorite color was black. His favorite candy was Gobstoppers.”
“I love those!” they told me.
I continued. “In high school he drove a black car he bought from Gram and Papa. He worked at a radio station, too— he got to talk on the radio between songs.”
I asked Abbi if she wanted to go to the grave tomorrow. “Yeah,” she replied.
Then Aurora said brightly, “And we can pray for a new daddy.”
As happens with small children, the conversation rapidly changed from serious things to lighter subjects. A few minutes later, they were in their beds ready for bedtime prayers. Abbi prayed first and said the usual prayer she prays, which is spontaneous and self-written but has little variation most nights. Aurora prayed second, including the phrase “I wish I had a new daddy” just like normal.
I prayed last, asking the Lord to comfort our hearts tomorrow and thanking Him for being a good, good Father. I thanked Him for supplying all our needs. I thanked Him for a nice home, good food, clean drinking water, and wonderful family, and friends. I prayed, too, that the Lord would honor my three-year-old’s prayer request. Finally, after closing my prayer, I asked Abbi if she was still feeling sad about Father’s Day.
“Yeah, I am,” she answered me. I encouraged her to pray about this. She prayed again, asking God to help her. I tucked them in, procured their missing stuffed animals, and kissed them goodnight.
The grief I carry as a widow with young children on this day would be enough. Trying to shepherd their little hearts through this is incredibly hard. It would be plenty indeed just to focus on that. Yet Father’s Day is a double-whammy for me because I lost my dad four months prior to my husband. I had my dad for nearly 28 years. When I look how little time my older daughter got with her daddy (16 months) and the fact that my littlest one never even met her daddy, it can be easy to think myself selfish when I hurt for myself on this weekend. I know though, I know, that it is okay for me to miss and grieve my own dad.
(With my dad, 1986. I've always been into beards)
I miss my dad’s laugh. I miss the way he would break into a goofy dance in the living room in an attempt to embarrass me, which worked well when I was a teen. I miss hearing him play guitar and sing in his tenor voice. I miss catching he and my mom kissing in the kitchen. Their love was a fierce and beautiful thing to behold; an example for all. I miss sitting and having long talks about the big things and the little things in life. I miss watching him as a grandpa, though I’m glad I was able to make him one and see him do that for a year.
(With Dad, 1988)
I love Chris, the daddy of my babies. I love Dad. The love remains even after the spirits no longer walk this earth. Their love remains as well… their impact, too, is still here. I am thankful for them.
I am thankful for people in my life who hold space for me when I ache for the presence of those I can no longer see, talk with, or touch. Thank you for listening to my heart. Thank you for letting me have my tears when I need to. Thank you for loving me through it all.
Happy Father’s Day to you, no matter where today finds you, whether it is a day of joy or a day of heartache. Your Heavenly Father adores you.
(Thanksgiving 2012. 7ish months pregnant with Abbi)