My dad’s gifts for Father’s Day evolved over my adult years. I went from buying him clothes to books to finally, gift cards.
This year I bought flowers to put on his grave.
When my dad first died over nine months ago, I had a deep peace. God clearly showed me it was his time to go, that his story had ended, at least on earth. It was time for him to go home.
It was also clear to me that God had graciously given us one more year together. It was equally clear that if my dad had lived longer his suffering would have increased, and it was a distinct possibility that he wouldn’t have been able to stay home since his mobility was rapidly deteriorating. That would have crushed both of my parents who were constant companions.
Of course, I’ve had sad days and days when I cried a bit, but the grief I thought I’d feel didn’t really hit me. It waited patiently in the wings while I focused on supporting my mother through the toughest transition – from wife to widow. It marked time while the hectic schedule of the school year made the weeks blur together.
I felt an inkling of it on my birthday. The first time in my adult life when my father’s slightly off-key voice didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
It nipped at me when I typed “The End” on the rough draft of my first novel when I realized my dad would never hold my book in his hands.
But it came out of the shadows for Father’s Day.
Maybe it’s just that I have finally slowed down, or maybe it is because my mom is getting used to life alone, or as used to it as you can ever get.
Or maybe it’s just that the day meant to celebrate fathers and all they mean to us drives home to me like nothing else does that I don’t have mine anymore.
Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself in tears multiple times this week. A deep ache seems to have settled in my chest, and the weight of my father’s absence weighs heavy in my heart.
And in the middle of my tears and sadness, I find myself thankful. Thankful I had a dad I can truly mourn. Thankful that I had that last extra year to spend intentional time with him. Thankful that my dad’s absence left a hole that nobody can fill.
When I was little, I thought my dad hung the moon. He was my superhero, and I had him squarely on a pedestal. There was nothing he couldn’t do or fix.
As I grew up, I realized he wasn’t perfect, but I never really took him off that pedestal. He was still a man I could admire and respect, not just love. He was a man my children could look up to and emulate.
And I’m thankful because I know that’s not the case for everyone.
So, as I walk in this new season of grief, I walk with not just a sad heart but a full heart. Even though my dad is no longer here, I’m keenly aware that I’m one of the lucky ones, and Father’s Day is still a day to celebrate that man.