You could always pick him out of a crowd. Due to his height, the salt and peppery hair on his head always stood a good 6 inches above everyone else. He had a broad and sturdy frame, his hands bigger than anyone I’ve met. We joked that his wedding ring could be a bracelet for my scrawny wrist.
His demeanor was quiet yet sure. Intimidating to most, yet a softie to those who knew him well and to say his little girl had him wrapped around her finger? Well, I most certainly did.
To me, my dad was the picture of stability. He had strength of character, he was the sole provider for our family, he knew what he knew and he knew it well. Rarely did he argue because his opponents knew better. He was either right or not backing down. Did I mention there’s a stubborn streak that runs in the family?
Though he never finished high school, he was the hardest worker I’ve ever met. There would be days he would come in from a project and I’d proclaim, “Dad, you’re bleeding!” He would look down and shrug. This made him invincible in my young eyes.
It was never hard for me to relate to God as a Father, given the Dad that I had. Of course God was strong, and unchanging and right in every way. So was my Daddy. Of course, God was just and good and patient and kind. It all seemed so natural, because my Dad was too.
There came a time though, that these two figures started to clash. When the strength of One began to hinder the strength of the other and life wasn’t making sense anymore. And why, if my Daddy was good would my Father who is good, take him away from me?
I remember the phone call like it was yesterday. I answered with a perky, “Hi Dad,” and he responded back with his tried and true, “Hi, Babygirl.”
At 32, I was still his Babygirl. I knew I would be until the end of time. I just had no idea the end of his time was nearing.
My dad had been through a series of doctor visits and overnight hospital stays. He had his lungs drained and blood transfused. He had been poked and prodded and no one was quite sure what the deal was; but something wasn’t right. In fact, something was very, very wrong.
I knew he had been to see the doctor on this beautiful crisp, yet sunny winter’s day, and as I pulled into the parking stall at my boys’ school, I took his call and we talked.
I asked him what the doctor had to say today and he announced, like he was telling me the score of lasts nights hockey game, that he’d been given three to six months to live.
Three to six months.
Three to six months?!?!
To my surprise, it wasn’t tears that overwhelmed my eyes, but venom invaded my thoughts. I riddled him with questions along the lines of: How can this be? What about second opinions? Maybe they’re wrong! This isn’t fair!
Over the next 5 months, I watched as Dad’s life was slowly taken from him: first, his capacity to go and do – at breakneck speeds; then his ability to even get out of bed for more than a few minutes; finally, the tubes, the needles and the hospital became his norm, his residence. I watched as day by day the little things faded away. His eyes stayed closed now. His ears weren’t hearing all that we said. His responses were fewer and farther between. I watched his extremities grow cold because his heart could no longer pump strong. I sat for a few minutes with my fingers resting on his arm, only to see the divots they created that now stayed. Evidence that his life was not even strong enough to push the skin back out.
I’d never wrestled with God before, never questioned his ways or his purposes. Now I did.
Now, as my earthly ambassador for Jesus, my very human picture of God’s love was being taken from me; now, I questioned the love of my heavenly Father. As I wrestled through the questions and doubts, as I battled the hard places of why he wasn’t healed and why so young, I learned much.
I learned that though my earthly Daddy was leaving me my Heavenly Father was saying, “I’m here.”
I learned that even though my earthly Daddy’s strength was fleeting, my Heavenly Father was saying, “I never change.”
My heart grieved as I watched my Dad’s life drain from him, but my Heavenly Father was showing me that He could heal my heart.
I’m so thankful for the legacy my Dad left; the things he taught me, and the love he shared. But even greater, I’m thankful that God is always my Father and that His love is perfect and His goodness sees me through the heartaches I face.