Wednesday, April 20, 2016

I Miss You, Dad

I had never prayed before. On a late night in the month of April I laid at the foot of my father's hospital bed, listening to his shallow breathing. Every few minutes a loud buzzer would go off and a nurse would rush in as if she could save my dad. That night I laid in the floor and begged God, a God I had yet to know, to either heal my dad or take him from this earth. 

I can still go back to that prayer. Tears flowing. My heart pounding. I counted my dad's breaths and wondered if there would be another. I begged God, "Please, God. Can You hear me? Please hear me. Heal my daddy tonight. Take this cancer from him. Allow him to breathe again. If You cannot do that for me then please take him. Please, God, don't make him suffer another night." My dad would spend three weeks in that hospital bed. 

I was nineteen. A young woman, but still so much just a girl. A girl who refused to believe her daddy was dying. No way! My dad would be here forever. God wouldn't take him from me. This girl with such a love would hate God for years to come. A God she didn't know, didn't want to know. 

A year earlier my dad was told he had terminal lung cancer and would never live past a year. That doctor got it right to the exact day. Now, knowing God, I know that with Him all things are possible. Then I believed Him to be a God who could do nothing. Oh, what a God of grace we have. My heart was so bitter and filled with such painful anger. God has healed my heart. He too healed my dad. Just not in the way I had hoped or had known possible. He would heal him on the other side of heaven.

My mother would remain at my dad's bedside for the next three weeks. Never leaving him for a minute. I would go to work each day, go home, clean house, and prepare things for my mom. I would visit my dad each day, but often called throughout the day to check on him. 

When my parents were told my dad was terminal they didn't share that information with me. I truly believed my dad would be coming home. Even those last three weeks at the hospital he would have days that weren't so bad. He celebrated Easter Sunday in the hospital. That would be the last day I would see my dad. 

I sat next to my dad, curled up in his bed, as he said to me, "Rob, I'm not gonna be able to leave here. You're going to have to take care of your mom. Always take care of her." As I type this tears flow so easily. I have worked to hard to keep that promise. I looked at my dad and said, "Dad, stop talking like that. Of course you will be coming home and you can take care of her yourself." But I still promised him and that would be a promise I would be determined to keep for the rest of my life. 

The next day the hospital was sending a hospital bed to our home for my dad. They knew they would be sending him home with hospice to die, but for me, I didn't know. I was thinking if they are sending him home he must be getting better. Still the little girl wanting her daddy, but so much the young woman wanting to protect her father. 

I was home on a sunny April morning. I didn't have to go into work until the afternoon. I called the hospital to check on my dad and mom said, "He's doing great. Having a great day." I was to wait for the bed to be delivered. I thought I'd catch some sun while waiting and then travel to the hospital to see my dad before I went into work. 

There I was with my iced tea as I see my brother-in-law and little nephews pull in the drive. I thought he came out to help with the bed. After all, my dad was coming home. He looked at me with tears and said, "Rob, we need to go to the hospital. Your dad has died." I was floored. I made him repeat it. I still didn't believe him. That was the longest ride I had ever taken. 

For years I carried such guilt. I should have been there. Here I was laying in the sun! He had told my mom to go get herself something to eat. That was the first time in three weeks that she had left his room. Did he know? All I could think about was him being all alone. Later I would realize he wasn't alone at all.

I wouldn't know until later and wouldn't understand until many years later, but two days before my dad died a pastor came in and visited with him. My dad accepted Jesus as his Savior. What a Jesus we have. Oh, to know that my dad would receive the love and forgiveness of a Savior I would later come to know. 

See, my dad could have easily died in a car crash on his way to work, never accepting Jesus. Never knowing that eternal hope. Was it God's plan for my dad to have cancer? I can't say that it was, but I can know for certain that God didn't allow one minute to go unused. He was planning. He loved my dad and was working to see my dad come to know Him as his Savior. Years later I would look back and see how God moved in my life to bring my heart to know him as well. 

All is possible with God. Thirty years has passed since that day. Thirty years without my dad. All those special times you wanna call and share with your dad were never to be.  I missed him as I walked down the aisle. I missed him being there when his grandchildren were born and now his great-grandchildren. To read my first piece of writing. So many moments, big and small,  we didn't get to share. But there were so many treasured memories.

I miss my dad's laughter. At night I would be in my room and hear my dad laughing as he watched Benny Hill, The Three Stooges, and Johnny Carson. His favorites. Oh, how he loved watching All In The Family. To hear his laughter one more time. 

We loved to fish together. He taught me how to play baseball. He taught me to love the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of course we were the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, but no one played like the Steelers! He taught me how to drive, but not before teaching  me to ride a bike. Each time I fell he would pick me back up and say, "Try it again, Rob". He was my greatest cheerleader. 

He made the greatest cheeseburgers and fries! Every day at four he would walk through the door from work. My mother would be preparing dinner. He always came through the door singing to my mom. "Hey, good-lookin'. Whatcha got cookin'? How about cookin' somethin' up with me?" Oh, the country music I endured in the backseat as a youngster I would one day learn to love as it brought me back in time. 

He taught me to believe that nothing was impossible. That I was capable and talented to do anything and be anything I wanted to be. We loved to laugh and Christmas was our favorite day of the year. Only we never waited for Christmas morning to open our gifts. We always had them open the night before, leaving my mom none to happy with us. He was everything a little girl needed. As an adult woman I look back so proud of him. 

I know he would so love my husband. His three grandchildren and three great-grands, soon to be four. I can only hope he would be so proud of me. I pray I have honored my dad in all he taught me. He taught me to stand up for what is right. To be brave no matter what may come. He taught me to be true to myself and never compromise who I am. Most of all he taught me to be humble and to walk with honor. To work hard and to never take a moment of life for granted. 

Oh, how I wish we could fish once more. That last year of his life he would catch and release. He loved catching the big fish. That year must have taught him so much. Something changed about his love of fishing. It became a different love for him. He purchased an old bike that he would ride a bike through the country for miles. If we could only have a few minutes for him to share with me all he learned on his journey. As a teen I wasn't so interested. So much time I allowed to pass. The years I would want to know more about my dad would just not be. I just always figured time would be forever. As a teen you never think about things happening to your parents. 

I look like my dad, but my son is perfect image. I look at my son at times and just fill with such joy. He would have been my dad's fishing buddy for sure. My girls would have been spoiled rotten and protected by his strong and mighty love. 

The years pass. I'm now older than my daddy was when he left this earth. That just doesn't seem right. But nothing is much right about this world we live in today. That God I once hated? Well, that God has moved in powerful ways in my life. I can look back and see His presence throughout my life. He has moved heaven and earth on my behalf. His grace and mercy brought me to know Him and I have loved Him for a little over twenty-five years now. I accepted Jesus as my Savior with my husband at my side as I cradled my son in my arms.

I can look back through tear stained eyes, but I too can look forward with a heart of joy as we will one day meet again. I'm sure, without a doubt, that we will have time to catch up. For me to hear all those stories I missed out on then. Now, there are even more stories to share. What a glorious day that will be for daddy and daughter to meet once again. Who knows, we may even get to throw the ball around again. 

Daddy, I'm all grown up now. I have accomplished so very much. Much of who I am today is because of you and all you instilled in me. You gave me such strength. You always gave me room to make mistakes and was always quick to forgive. So many years ago you wanted a boy. God had me in store for you instead. I know how proud you were to hold me that first time. I now have your wallet that carried my picture for so many years. Love forever remains and the love you gave to me was mighty. I thank you, Dad. I thank you for everything. We'll catch up soon and boy, is there a lot to share. 

I miss you.


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