It has been eleven years since I first had to say the phrase, "My dad died." Back then I probably chose different words, but the meaning was all the same.
"My dad's gone. He passed away. He's in a better place."
I probably thought that saying it a different way made it not sound so bad, but is there any good way to say that the person you loved most in this world was no longer going to be a part of your daily life? I don't think there is. In fact, I'm sure that there isn't.
Eleven years later the words still sting. They don't have the power they once did in my life when the wound was fresh, but it hurts just the same. Now the pain has a different type of depth as I think about how different my life is. A 17 year old senior in high school with all the world ahead of her to the 28 year old happily married mom that I am today. Now the sadness is laced with all the things my dad doesn't know about me and my life; all the joy that we are both missing out on.
My dad never met Cale. He would laugh to know that I did marry a man much like him. Cale's life isn't quite as complete without his father-in-law to encourage, inspire and learn from. My dad would delight in our sweet Haven and I have no doubt that his daughter's daughter would hold a supreme place in his heart. Haven's life will be a bit less rich because her Grandpa Jon is only someone who exists in stories.
And while today is a sad day for me (you never "get over" the death of a dearly loved parent, you just learn to live life in a new way without them in it), I am trying to think of all the wonderful things about my dad that have shaped me and made me who I am. My dad left a rich legacy and I treasure it and pray that I will be able to pass it on to my own children.
My dad taught me to love Jesus. He lived a life of faith. He taught me about grace and patience and love that knows no bounds. He taught me how to pray and that wherever you are is the best place to practice it- on the phone, on the street, in a hospital corridor, at home, in the car. He taught me how to think for myself and to form intelligent opinions. He helped to develop a mind that cares about what is going on in the world around me and to not get so caught up in my little corner of it. He talked to me about politics and current events and helped me to understand my part in it.
And no, my dad was no saint. I assure you that my memory of him has not become foggy with the passing of time. I recognize his strengths as well as his weaknesses and hopefully have learned something from both. I just know that my dad made me set high standards- for my self and the people around me. He is why I didn't settle for just a husband, but married my best friend and the love of my life. He is why I don't get hung up on seeing God as my Heavenly Father.
I cling to the hope that we have through Jesus of being with my dad again in Heaven. And while it may be true that he is no longer alive here in this world, I am completely confident in the truth that he is alive in Christ. Sometimes there isn't much comfort in that. I want him here, now, tangible, available. But for today I will find joy in the thought of having all of eternity together. The pain of this world forgotten- all of the moments of wishing he were here and all the sadness of the things we never got to experience- GONE.
Now that is something to remember.