The Gift

This Father’s Day marks a new beginning…the beginning of holidays without my Dad’s presence. My family is in the difficult season of adjusting to life without him. That’s especially difficult for my mom who shared 60 years of marriage with my Dad. After a valiant fight against Parkinson’s and several other slow progressing diseases, my Dad passed away about six weeks ago. So now it’s our first Father’s Day without him.

I miss my Dad and love him dearly, but I choose to focus on the blessings. He no longer suffers. He is restored to good health. He is sipping coffee again with Uncle Harry and Uncle Butch, along with my Grandpa and Grandma. And he has met Jesus face to face.

Last Thanksgiving as my Dad lay bedridden, my little family of three had just returned from our vacation to Big Bend. As Meredith, Gary and I gathered around his bed, his eyes lit up and he sat up as best he could. I shared with him that my best childhood vacation was our family trip to Big Bend and I loved getting to share that same vacation with Gary and Meredith now. He grinned and laughed as I reminded him of the story of how I somehow rolled down a small hill and landed in the Rio Grande during that childhood trip. He grinned as I shared the laughter that my little family of three experienced as Meredith and her friend encountered a bear cub, conquered the highest peak in Big Bend and we survived our retro RV named “Betty.”

Dad chuckled with each adventure shared. He asked questions with every picture we showed him. He shared stories of his own memories from that childhood vacation to Big Bend. It was heartwarming to retrace the places he and I had experienced long ago at Big Bend with the same places I had just shared with Meredith and Gary. Dad’s chuckle was a sweet song to my ears. It was the chuckle I remembered from all those years ago, his years of good health and robust stature. Despite his diminishing frame and strength, his blue eyes twinkled as he listened and we laughed together over our mutual Big Bend adventures.

As his death loomed in late April, I sat late into the night with him holding his hand, talking to him just as I had for years, sharing more memories forever embedded in my heart, assuring him of our Heavenly Father’s love, and praying for his peace and comfort. I thanked him for always being there for me and for choosing to be an involved, beloved Poppa to my little girl. I thanked him for choosing to share the 1 minute, 18.26 seconds with Meredith at the state swim meet when she was eight, a summer that deeply impacted the trajectory of her life. In the silence of that long night, facing the certainty of his passing, I recalled and retold those precious sweet memories and they comforted me.

At my Dad’s funeral service just a few days later, God called me to share a message–stories of the gifts my Dad had given to my mom and siblings. To my mom, the gift of celebrating their 60th anniversary by overcoming major health obstacles; the gift of carpentry to my oldest brother, Kevin; the gift of event planning to my sister, Tyanne; the gift of a strong male role model and gardening to my sister, Holly;  and the gift of a quiet faithful and caring soul to my youngest brother, Kolby.

A few days after my father’s service, my best friend asked, “Monica, what was the gift your Dad passed to you?”

That was easy to answer. As the second oldest child, I got the gift of my Dad’s best, his prime. You see, my Dad was in his early 20’s when I was born, but my two youngest siblings were born much later in my Dad’s life. They didn’t get to see the twinkle in my Dad’s eye as he planned that Big Bend adventure or experience summer trips to Port Alto bay. Despite the age differences and different seasons, though, my siblings and I share one mutual gift from my Dad:

Dad couldn’t give us each the exact same thing, but he gave each of us his ALL. 

As Father Day approaches, I reflect again on that question posed my best friend and, without a doubt, the gift that underlies all of those precious memories is this: My Dad listened.Whether he had answers or not, he listened to me. Whether he had just come home from an exhausting long night of shift work, he listened to me. And, consequently, we were blessed with good conversations and a close relationship. A relationship that bloomed into a precious relationship between my daughter and my Dad, her beloved Poppa. Dad always loved hearing Meredith’s tales of her missionary travels. They, too, shared sweet conversation. His eyes twinkled as he listened and learned of her latest adventure whether that was her swimming adventures as a young child or a mission trip to the island of old cars.  His gifts sustain me as I celebrate this first Father’s Day without him.

Sweet friends, I’m thankful for the hundreds of conversations I shared with my Dad. I’m grateful that he chose to listen to my confused thoughts as a teenager, my college tribulations, and my struggles in adulthood and parenthood. I’m grateful that he modeled so beautifully the concept of sacrifice for his family without a grumble or complaint. My heart swells with love when I recall the memories he made with Meredith and my husband, Gary.

Sweet friends, cherish the time you have with family.

Listen. Hug. Love. Spend time with one another.

And Gary, as we celebrate you this Father’s Day, I pray we choose to follow my Dad’s best and your Dad’s best. Interweaving their bests with our bests, together let’s promise that we’ll always make time to listen to Meredith and share sweet adventures with her as long as we can, even if that means stepping out of the boat or boarding a plane! This Father’s Day, you are blessed with a daughter that loves you immensely. I love you, too!

On this first Father’s Day, it may be difficult but I won’t mourn the loss of my Dad.

Instead I choose to cherish His gift.

Happy 1st Father’s Day in Heaven, Dad! I love you always.