It was just one day after Christmas, my special gift sat on my dining room table as our family headed home from the farm. As we took the scenic, winding road along the river I gasped at the mirror of water sitting perfectly still. Thankfully, home was only about five minutes away as daylight was fading.
Within a minute I was back in the car, my oldest happily joining me. Back in Sept 2014, my Dad finally went home to be with the Lord at the age of 62. He fought the good fight and told cancer it wasn’t going to take away his dignity as a husband, father, brother, uncle, and grandfather. My Dad was very specific in his final wishes and the way in which he wanted the girls and I to remember him… “as he was.”
In August 2014, only three weeks prior to his passing, we traveled the 600+ miles to spend a week with him – an hour and a half per day. Here’s where the story gets really amazing. A cousin from my childhood sent me some pictures in the mail; ones she stumbled upon and thought I would like. She told me months before that she was going to send me a package, but I believe the Lord’s timing was perfect (need to remember that more often). I picked up the mail from the post office and opened the envelope, interested in its contents. You see, we kept Dad’s health private because that is who he was and what he wanted. My cousin had no idea of the timing.
Tears streamed the second I saw the contents. Pictures… pictures I’d never seen before of me and my Dad, along with a few of my Dad, my very young self, and my mother. In every picture my Dad is holding me, looking at me in joy, and enjoying being a Dad. My father wasn’t part of my life from the ages of 8-18 due to an ugly divorce. The detailed story of love and forgiveness and what can happen when we allow the Lord to lead our relationships is for another time. You however, can just imagine the words spoken towards me over those ten years in regard to my father. Dad was not the perfect husband, and certainly not to my mother, but he was my Dad. I knew in my adult life that Dad loved and cared for me, which is a huge blessing since I had felt abandoned for all of those years.
As I sat at the post office, tears streaming in that exact moment, Dad called my cell phone. We ended up playing some phone tag with lost connections, just enough for me to gain my composure. A few days prior I was sending him emails trying to convince him to call Hospice and allow them to help him. It seemed he looked to me for permission each step of the way as the cancer progressed. He informed me that he did indeed call Hospice. Between the pictures and the phone call, I knew then without a doubt a road trip was required. I had specifically prayed for guidance on this matter of going to see him, one last time.
During our phone conversation, I told him about the pictures and how much they meant to me. I conveyed how the images confirmed that even as a child he loved and cared for me dearly, in his way. When we visited with him he loved seeing them. It brought him joy, as he had never seen them either. Thanks, cousin.
The visit was beautiful. The time of simply being together is something I will always cherish, always. Even in those moments, he wanted to host and entertain us, which was just amazing. Each of us knew why we were there, yet we put that aside.
When divorce violates, when cancer tries to destroy, when the happiest, most joyful moments of our lives occur we have our faith, our memories, our stories, and our pictures. A picture can stir the soul and evoke emotions we didn’t even know we had. Some pictures… there simply are no words.
I knew this Christmas was going to be hard. Dad always made a point to share more of our long-distance lives during Christmas. On Dec 11, three months to the day after his passing, I was again at the post office picking up the mail. That day, the envelope in question contained a gift from Dad, an unexpected life insurance check for me. It wasn’t a huge amount of money, but it was immeasurable to me.
In loving memory of Dad and in living out Romans 8:28, which states “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” The gift on the table was from Dad, a new fancy camera.
Capturing these beautiful reflections along the river, on a quiet country road with my oldest daughter, was the first time I used it. Thanks Dad! It seems God continues to layer the love of my father into my life, even after cancer, especially after cancer!