In October, it had been 15 years since my Dad died. I typically tend to ignore the fact that my Dad died in October and get through the month without any sad recourse. However around this time of year, all of those emotions come flooding my heart and force me to consider the fact that he isn't here anymore.
I always thought that every year it would be easier to deal with - that if time heals all wounds then I should not be sad anymore. Life goes on. And I thought the sting of not having someone in my life anymore - even a person who gave me life - well, I would eventually just move on.
In some ways, I guess I have. I got through high school, graduated from college, found the love of my life, did well in my chosen profession and then had two very wonderful little girls who I now get to stay home and raise. I haven't let grief stop me from being the very best version of me because Dad didn't raise me like that.
Mom and Dad both always told me and my brothers that we could do anything that we set our minds to. I think this is very sound advice because it builds up a child to know he or she can be anything, but there is one condition: You must work hard for it and believe in it. Without this, it is impossible to really persevere at anything. I think this advice is so incredibly amazing because in everything that I have ever really wanted to do, I have succeeded. And I know it's because my parents taught me to not ask for hand outs or expect that I would be perfect at everything. (This is something that I am concerned younger generations don't quite grasp with the "give me, give me right now" attitudes.) Instead my parents have always lifted us up to believe that hard work produces good results and to strive for the very best versions of ourselves.
I asked my Mom last weekend what Dad would think of the fact that we named Peanut after him. Her real first name was my Dad's middle name. She said that he would have loved it. It was a bold move naming a child after someone that I miss dearly because I have a daily reminder of my Dad. I try to imagine what my Dad would be like with all of his grandchildren.
Dad was a hard working man. He worked his tail off to provide for us. We always had what we needed and a few things that we wanted. It was a modest upbringing, but one where I never felt like I was neglected in anything with the exception of one: My Dad's time. He worked so hard to make ends meet for us that he was literally spent by the time he got home from work. As a working adult, I now understand this. If he wasn't working, he was fixing something or helping someone else out. He was always on the go.
When he got sick and ended up in the hospital, he had a moment of realization where he told my mom that things were going to be different. He was going to spend less time working and more time with his family. I remember being so excited thinking this was huge for our family - we would actually go on vacations and he would be around. And then one day during a routine procedure, he passed away.
All of those hopes that this was merely a turning point in his life and not the end of his life were gone. He had realized the one thing that was the most important part of this thing called life, but it was too late. We were left devastated and broken. Something that I don't think any of us have ever really gotten over.
I remember at his funeral as we were driving to the cemetery, this little voice called out to me. It said, this is the end of the first chapter of your life. Tomorrow begins chapter two. It is time to make some decisions about how you are going to live YOUR life. And so at that moment, I knew what I was going to set my mind to. I was going to college.
Now, I didn't make the very best decisions in chapter two. I became quite the self destructive type because of my grief. I turned from God and I shook my fist at Him and decided that I would follow my own path. I would go my own way and it didn't matter if it hurt me or not. I was already hurting.
Luckily, God had other plans for me. He helped me to dodge a huge bullet in marrying the wrong person. He pulled me away from people who were out to hurt me and take advantage of me. He gave me direction on how to find my profession and make a good living. And then he gave me the gift of a lifetime...my husband and children.
My husband had pulled away from God, too. He was questioning the bible and it's legitimacy, but he grew up with God-loving family members as I had. We made a lot of of bad decisions together, but God never gave up on us. He worked on us until there was nothing left of our stubbornness and we humbly fell before Him.
Lately I have been thinking about the advice my Dad gave to me. When I was little, I used to think that it meant that if I want to be a doctor or a lawyer or any other profession, with hard work I could be. And perhaps that is what he meant, too. But now, as I sit here in my home with my little ones, I have a whole new appreciation for this advice. For it doesn't just fit how to approach a career, but how to approach life.
I am setting my mind to being the very best mother and wife possible. And I know it takes more than luck to accomplish this. I have to set my mind to being there for them, loving them, disciplining them constructively and most importantly, setting them on a path to make the best decisions for their lives. A path that is not all their own, like I stumbled down. But a path that God prepares and holding His hand,they are able to set their minds to do what may seem impossible for Him.
This time of year, I miss my Dad. I miss him because of the time we had and the time that we didn't have. But I remember this time of year is also a celebration for my other Father. My Lord, who came into this world as a sweet little baby only be hung on a wooden cross short years later to His death. My Father who I have never hugged in a physical sense, but lives forever and loves me enough to redeem me and never give up on me.
During chapter two, I felt fatherless. I felt cheated and alone. I had a father, but he was no more on this earth, but in heaven now. It was a dark time in my life, but thankfully, I was saved to move into the next chapter of my life. And in this life, I have a Father. He loves me and I love Him. He will never leave me.
Just as I am setting my mind to be the best mother and wife, I am going to be the best child of God, too.
That is the least I can do for my Dad.