Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Dad and Samson (Chapter 12 of PRZJESUS)
Over the years after my parents' divorce, my dad refused to go by the wayside. I had painful conflicting emotions about his presence in my family's life. He was so totally devoted to my Rachel. Since Julie developed Multiple Sclerosis at around age 24 or so, it wreaked total havoc on her poor body and not only did she never have any children; her husband left her the minute she was diagnosed and the doctor gave them the full scope of what her medical future could hold. Julie was Dad's only biological child. Although Rachel is my daughter, my dad never thought of her as anything other than his own granddaughter and treated her like a spoiled princess always.
I would tell Rachel she couldn't have some kind of extravagant toy and my dad would take her right out and buy it for her. He'd smile sheepishly at me and say, “What? She wanted it. Why shouldn't she have it?” He adored her.
I was so hurt that my dad actually did allow my mom to divorce him that I just didn't know how to feel about him anymore. He'd been in my life since I was around four or five years old. I really don't have anymore than perhaps a handful of memories without him in my life. I felt like I needed to be “loyal” to my mom and therefore shun him from my adult life. My mother never asked this of me. She had no feelings of hatred for him. I just felt like I should encourage him to leave us alone. He got in my face one afternoon after I had yelled at him that he wasn't my father, legally, and he wasn't even really Rachel's grandfather, either for that matter (this was waaay before I was saved and I was always flying off the handle about something) and my dad got right in my face and said, “I raised you. I've always loved you and I love Rachel. She IS my granddaughter and not you or anyone else can tell me otherwise.”
As I have said before my biological father has had very little to do with me throughout my life. He has seen Rachel two or three times in her fifteen years. He does not live more than two hours away, but he just has never been that interested. He has his own life. My dad seemed to make Rachel the center of his life. He'd call on Wednesday mornings at 7 am to make sure he was still going to be able to pick Rachel up after school for their weekly outing. He'd take her out for ice cream or to the mall. They'd go to Toys R Us and the bookstore. Wherever she wanted to go, he'd take her. Christmas and birthdays were nearly shameful. My dad got great delight in bringing over more than a dozen (I am not exaggerating) beautifully wrapped gifts for Rachel. By the time she was ten years old she had everything Barbie ever owned: a jet airplane complete with an “intercom” system and stewardess cart full of trays of food for the passengers, the Barbie RV, “stinky” Ken (he was a surfer who came with a cool shell-like necklace and smelled like coconut oil), Barbie's pets, shoes, clothes galore, computer games, video games, movies, even a Barbie karaoke system. It was pink overkill in Rachel's room. A part of me was mad because I could never buy gifts for my daughter that rivaled what my dad got her. But, if I only knew then, what I know now. Those were precious things to my Rachel, but even more so, the attention and unconditional love that her grandfather gave her sustained her through many troubled years in my care. I think between my dad and my mom, Rachel had two very best friends. My dad would tell her to be respectful to me and then come to me and beg me to “take it easy on Rachel”. My mom would comfort Rachel when she would complain about me and then let me have it for being so hard on her. I felt very much like I was co-parenting Rachel with many entities: each of my parents individually, Rachel's dad and even Rod. There was no shortage of people caring about the well-being of my daughter. She was well kept by many hands and hearts and certainly the apple of the family eye.
My dad was faithful to keep his weekly visits with Rachel until last winter. Last winter was a very difficult time for all of us. To begin with it was an election year. The leading Presidential candidate was very much in favor of everything Christ stands against: gay marriage and abortion rights. My dad revealed to me that he was excited about voting for this horrific candidate. He and I got into a very heated exchange. I demanded to know how he could even consider voting for this man, when he considered himself to be a Christian. Everything he stands for goes against what the Bible teaches us? He loved seeing me get on my high horse. He said, “I'm voting for him because he's going to win.” I refused to accept that and continued to try to reason with him about why voting for that guy was wrong; wrong for us, as Christians, wrong for our wonderful country...just wrong! He said, “That guy says he's a Christian.” I said, “Dad, he's a muslim in hiding. They believe in sanctified lying. He's a liar and a muslim. You cannot vote for him. He's the worst possible thing that could happen to our great nation.” My dad got mad finally and let me have it. It wasn't any of my *#$%^ business who he voted for because it was a free country! He left in a huff. I was glad. At the time, I was so furious with him I never wanted to see him again. I had to go pray. I couldn't understand how he could be fooled!
My dad's candidate won the election. A week later everything changed. My dad got diagnosed with rectal cancer. He told me he was going to die. I said, “We're all going to die. You're only 73 years old. You have plenty of life left to live. You'll get well and get out there and live. You're not going to die from this.” I was talking to myself. He wasn't listening. Rachel was devastated. We lived in a grievous state watching him begin to whither before our eyes. He lost weight rapidly. We thought the radiation was wearing him down. His incessant cough was troubling him more than the cancer. He begged the doctors to stop focusing on his rectal cancer for a minute and look into the horrendous troublesome cough. After two months, they did and they told him he had a fist sized tumor in his left lung. It was inoperable but they needed to do more tests. He had bone cancer and it had spread to his lymph nodes, as well. It may be in his brain, they said. He was still driving his car around and making it to the food ministry at church sometimes. Everyone said, “Sit down and just visit. Don't work, just let us see you.” He wouldn't. He wanted to work. I think the cancer was making him ashamed. He couldn't help it. He couldn't change anything. He just kept coughing up hideous stuff and waited while the insipid disease ate him alive.
His doctor referred his case to hospice. He refused to be put in the hospice care facility. He wanted to stay in his home. He told the hospice social worker and the nurse they were not allowed to come over to his house without an appointment. He told them they were not allowed to call his cell phone for any reason. He told them he wanted nothing to do with morphine. He said he wasn't going to “go that route”.
I begged him, “Dad let them help you.” He said, “I won't become a burden to anyone.” I assured him, “You're not a burden. You've taken care of all of us all of your life. Let us take care of you.” He rarely accepted a meal from me. He told me one afternoon that he “wasn't up” to picking Rachel up from school anymore. He asked me to explain it to her. He didn't want Rachel to see him “this way”. He had lost fifty pounds, when he was a trim man to begin with. His face became emaciated. His legs were so thin. His cough was horrific. I was falling apart inside. How could this be happening? I cried out to God for mercy for my dad. My mom was single again. My dad was single. My hope, my expectation, my plans were that my mom and dad were going to get back together and do some kind of mission work together. God said he had plans, too.
My dad's illness brought about a lot of reconciliation. He and his lady-friend Sue had had a fight about the election (apparently for the same reason that he and I did). They stopped seeing each other for a while until she found out about his illness. She said he had become her best friend over the twelve years they had known each other. She stepped in and began coming regularly to see him and bring him meals every day. She loved God very much and prayed for him every day. He received her friendship humbly.
My mom agonized over my dad's illness. Finally, she called him and asked if she could come over. She hadn't been in their “last dream home” since the day she left in 1997. It was December of 2008. She was in for a big surprise. My dad had left practically everything just as she had left it. In his house it was as though time had stood still. Her art glass collection that she had left behind was still sitting in the same place. The dried snowball flowers that my mom cut from my Grama's yard were still in the vase on the dining room table where my mom had placed them more than a dozen years before. My dad still had the same placemats on the table. My mom's cookbooks and books were still in the shelves in the kitchen. Nothing was different except a few new photographs placed here and there of Sue and her family and my dad's treasures he brought back from Australia.
My mom dissolved in a puddle of tears as she looked around at her “old life”. My dad wept as he watched my mom cry. She said, “If I had been a Christian back then, I never would have left you.” My dad returned softly, “If I had been a Christian back then, I never would have let you go.” They hugged each other and sat together on their leather couch letting the Lord heal their broken hearts and soothe their painful regrets. My mom whispered, “Robert, let me move in here and take care of you.” He patted my mom's little hand, “You don't need to take care of me. I'm doing all right.” My mom said, “You need me now. Let me help you.” My dad smiled and shook his head no. She asked him to forgive her. He said he did a long time ago. He asked her if she forgave him. She said she had. She thanked him for always taking such good care of “her” children. He whispered, “They're mine, too.” They sat there that afternoon together talking about old times as the winter winds whipped furiously outside the French doors on the little porch just off the living room. This was the house where they had planned to live out their last days together.
Sometime later my dad called me over to his house. He sat me down and asked me to tell him where the scripture was that said you go to hell if you kill yourself. I paused, afraid, but thought maybe he was asking for someone else. Finally, I told him that it's not in the Bible. I said, “God says that we are to trust Him with all of our heart and that we are not to commit murder.” He said, “Suicide isn't murder.” I said, “Dad, you didn't give you that life. God gave you that life. If you take a life that God made, it's murder...plain and simple.” Then he said, “God can forgive us of anything if we ask Him, right? Isn't that what the Bible says, “If we confess then He forgives?” He was getting at 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
My dad had been under the tutelage of Pastor Bob Wilson who preached every service for the food ministry. He drove it home, If we confess, God forgives...it doesn't matter how bad you've been or what you've done. Pastor Bob was one of my dad's dearest friends. My dad was faithfully devoted to him and I know his fiery sermons filled with scripture went down deep into my dad's marrow, the same as they did for me and my mom. I was worried about my dad's mind. I encouraged him to trust God with every pain he was having and allow God to minister to his every need. He asked me where it talks about suicide in the Bible. At the time, the only two that I could think of were King Saul (who didn't actually finish the job and one of the Amalekites that he was supposed to kill came along and finished the job) and of course, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. “In both cases,” I told him, “the Bible says that an evil spirit had entered them before they did that. You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit so that couldn't happen to you. God loves you, Dad. He isn't going to give you more than you can handle.” “Where does it say that?” my Dad asked “That God won't give me more than I can handle.” I didn't know right off at that moment, but I knew it was in there.
On the way home from his house I was lifting him up to the Lord and telling God how desperately my Dad needed Him now. I thought of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it.” I prayed the God would make my Dad able to bear up under the excruciation of this cancer. I begged Him again to let my parents reconcile and go all over the world and serve Him. “Please heal him, Lord. Please.”
Winter wore on outside and the war against my Dad's health raged inside. He continued to shrink before our eyes. He was still driving himself around and even going to McDonald's each day for a chocolate shake. His sweet tooth still worked so my mom made him pie and brought it over. He was getting so many phone calls and visits he was worn out from all the attention. I tried to stay away and give him his space. One afternoon, I popped in with Rachel and Gracie in tow just to see how he was doing. He was in a ghastly mood. He was tired from no sleep. He had coughed up “lasagna looking stuff” all night. The phone hadn't stoppped ringing all morning and he hadn't been able to go to the bathroom. He was taking the medicine the doctors gave him: “horse pills” that he could barely swallow. Sue had brought him over some applesauce to aid with that. She had called me and told me she was concerned for him, but he wouldn't let her do much. She brought him his meals and tried to cheer him up. When we got there he just wasn't in the mood for guests.
Rachel, now fourteen years old and he acted strangely towards each other. He was clearly embarrassed. I think she was shocked and afraid to see him so frail. He said he wished we had called first. I don't know how that could have changed anything. But, we didn't stay long. Later he told me he didn't want Rachel to see him that way anymore. I wanted to obey his wishes, but at the same time, I felt like maybe their time together was running out.
By early April the buds were beginning to appear on the trees outside. The shrill winds were dying down and the hope of Spring drew near. I called my Dad one morning to tell him I was going to stop by alone, if that was all right. He said it was fine. When I walked in the door, he was watching golf on his TV. I got mad right away. How could he be watching golf when he was about to enter eternity? If I were dying I would be spending every minute I could drinking up the sweet nectar of God's word. But, I am not him and he is not me and I once again, for the last time with my dad, opened my big mouth and said, “You should be reading your Bible and not watching that TV.” He immediately got mad at me and we started arguing. He finally worked himself up to a yell and said, “Don't you come over here and tell me how to die! I'm dying in case you didn't notice and that #$%*& TV is the only thing in this whole god-forsaken world that gives me comfort! And besides, you don't know that I'm not reading my Bible, do you?” I was so mad at him. I was so angry at God for letting him die this way. I screamed out at him, “You're dying and you're feeding on the trash of the world as you go! I'm leaving! I can't take this anymore!” I got up, put on my coat and scarf and walked out slamming his door behind me. I got in my old minivan and grumbled my way down his street, crying out to God, “I'm not wrong about this! I know I'm not wrong! He shouldn't be watching that stupid television.” I cried the whole way home. It was April 10th.
Two days later I was in agony over my impulsive, big-mouthed, accusatory foolish behavior. It's my problem that I hate TV. It's my own business. What had I done? I called him and left a message on his answering machine. I knew that he was sitting there listening to my message. I said, “Dad, I know you can hear me. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I was wrong. You were right. I don't know what got into me. Please pick up. Please.” I waited. And waited. And then the machine beeped it's shrill sound in my ear and disconnected me. I waited two more days. He didn't return my calls. I called Sue. She said he had told her what happened. She told me she was sorry.
My mom rebuked me for my impulsiveness. “Have some compassion on him, Jennifer. You don't know what he's feeling. He can't stop coughing. He can't go to the bathroom. He can't sleep. He doesn't even taste anything anymore unless it's sweet. His whole body is shutting down. And now you want him to become a Bible scholar? Please, honey, have mercy.” I cried my eyes out at her kitchen table. “Oh mom, he won't return my calls. I keep calling and praying and asking God to make him forgive me. He won't call me back. Have you seen him?” She said she had. “He's weak. About the same. He went to the dollar store yesterday and he blacked out or something and fell flat on his face and banged himself all up. He said people came from all directions in the store to help him back onto his feet. I think he was so humiliated. Someone helped him out to his car and he drove home. He said he isn't going out anymore. He looked awful, bruises all over his arms and face and he had some kind of big new growth across his throat.” Oh, my dad was dying and he wouldn't forgive me. What had I done? I called him again that afternoon and begged him to please forgive me, “I'm just stupid, Dad. Please forgive me and call me. I need to hear your voice.” It was Sunday, April 19th.
Monday morning Rod joined me on my knees at our bed and prayed again asking the Lord to soften my Dad's heart. “Father, please cause Bob to forgive Jennifer. She's asked him to forgive her and she's asked You. Please have mercy on my wife, Lord. It's been ten days, now. She can't take much more, Father. Please, in Jesus' name. Amen.” We rose from prayer. Rod hugged me and wiped my tears away. I went into the kitchen to make breakfast and the phone rang. It was 7:00 am. The caller ID said, “Robert Trachsel”. I said through instantaneous tears, “Oh, thank you, Jesus!” and then I answered the phone, “Oh, Dad....I'm so sorry. Please forgive me!” He interrupted me, “Jennifer, I'm not mad at you. I do forgive you. I said I was sorry again and again as I blubbered into the phone. He said, “Listen to me. Listen, will you?” I pulled it together. My dad advised me for the last time, “Do me a favor; don't ever go to someone's house and tell them how to live or how to die, okay?” I laughed and said, “Ok. I won't, I promise. He laughed a little too. He asked me how the kids were. I told him they were fine. He said again he wasn't mad at me and he forgave me. I thanked him and asked him how he was. He said, “Not too good. I think today's the day.” I said, “You don't know that. God can still heal you.” He said, “I don't think that's gonna happen.” He had a big coughing jag and then asked, “So, what do you have planned for today?” I told him, “The usual. I'm making bacon and eggs for everyone and then it's off to school.” He said, “Can you talk a little more or do you have to go?” I said, “Actually, Dad, I do have to get going. I haven't started breakfast yet and we have to leave at 7:30 to get there on time.” He said, “I'll let you go. I love you. Have a good day.” I said, “I love you, too. Thank you for calling me. I'll talk to you later.” He hung up. I was so overjoyed that he called me. He told me he wasn't mad at me, he forgave me and he loved me. My cup overflowed that morning.
By mid-morning I was spiritually troubled. I was adled and found myself blubbering in tongues. The Holy Spirit inside of me was welling up. I didn't know why I felt so strange. I couldn't explain it then and I can't now. I just walked from room to room in my house praying and crying out in tongues. When I left my house at 2:30 to go get Rachel from school I called my Dad's house. His machine picked up and I said, “Hi Dad, I'm going to get Rachel from school now and I thought you might like to see her. So, I will drive over to your house after I pick her up unless you don't call me. If you don't call then I'll know today is not a good day for you and I won't come. I love you. Bye.” By 3:15 we were leaving Rachel's school and he didn't call me back. I thought about stopping by anyway but something made me go on home.
At 5:30 we were had just finished dinner and my mom appeared on our back porch in her uniform with tears streaming down her face. My immediate reaction was, “No. No, not today, Lord. Not yet.” Hot tears sprang from my eyes and I shook my head no at my mother. She held her arms out to me and said, “He's gone, honey. He's gone home.” I cried, “How do you know?” She said, “The Sheriff's office called me at work. He's gone.” I said, “I want to see him. I want to go there. Is he at his house?” She said he was. Rachel was falling apart in her bedroom. I said to her, “Honey, get your coat. You're coming with us.” Rod held Gracie at bay, she was four and trying to figure out why everyone she loved was falling apart. Rod said, “Grampa Bob went to be with Jesus.” Gracie asked, “Why is everyone crying then?”
Rachel and my mom and I got in the car and headed for Black Mountain. I don't remember how we got there. When we drove up his street there was an ambulance that passed us in the opposite direction, I said, “Oh, we're too late. We're too late. They've got him in there. We've got to turn around.” Mom said, “No. Maybe not. Let's just go to his house.” So, we kept driving and there in front of my dad's house were two sheriff cars and a police car and two or three other vehicles. I asked my mom, “Why are the police here? Why so many?” We parked and got out and I ran past my Uncle Mike and tried to go across the bridge to my Dad's front door which was standing wide open. My Uncle Mike caught my arm and said, “You can't go in there, Jennifer. He's gone. You can't go in.” I tried to pull away from him and my mom said, “She wants to see him one last time.” He said, “She can't do that. He killed himself, Patricia. He's gone.” I was devastated, “NO! NO! NO! He wouldn't do that. We talked about that. I told him to trust God. He wouldn't do it. He wouldn't. He couldn't.” I was hitting my Uncle Mike in the chest and crying uncontrollably. I said, “I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to say goodbye.” Precious Rachel ran down the street and hid on the ground behind the cars crying wildly. I ran to her and tried to hug her. She shrugged me off and ran away from me. My mom stayed with Uncle Mike talking and crying. He was my mom's brother but my Dad's best friend, no divorce could change that. My Dad's friend Larry was there too, trying to console my mother. It was like a bad dream in broad daylight. How could he do it? I couldn't believe it. My Dad was gone?
He had left us a note. He asked God to forgive him for what he was about to do. He asked all of us to forgive him, too. He said the pain had become too great and now for some reason he was unable to swallow any more of his pain pills. He left a list of names and numbers of people to be contacted about his death. Next to my name he wrote the word, Daughter. He called me his Daughter, not his step-daughter. In his dying words he wrote that I was his Daughter. He did love me. He loved me better than I loved him. That afternoon around 1:00 he shuffled outside with a shotgun and sat down in his backyard and ended his life. The neighbors heard the shot and called the authorities. My Dad was not in agony anymore.
That night Gracie was begging me to read her nightly Bible story. “I want to pick it out” she said. I was grateful for that. She chose the story of Samson. I read the Bible story out loud to her and at once the Lord ministered to me and reminded me about one more suicide in the Bible I hadn't thought of that day my Dad asked me. Like Samson, God gave my Dad all the gifts and talents that he needed throughout his life to serve Him. My Dad chose a different path for much of his life. Eventually the enemy (cancer) got a hold of him and brought him to humiliation and shame. Like Samson, he prayed one last prayer and took the enemy out with him. I kissed Gracie goodnight and she said tenderly, “Momma, don't cry because Grampa Bob is with Jesus. We should be happy for him. Don't we want to go with Jesus, too?” “Yes, honey. We do. You're right. I will miss Grampa Bob until we get to go be with Jesus. That's why I'm sad.” She kissed me and hugged me tight and told me she loved me. I prayed with her and left the room.
That night I was sobbing listening to Rachel crying in her room. I tried to console her but she said she wanted to be left alone. I opened my Bible to Hebrews Chapter 11. Doubt was creeping in about my Dad's whereabouts. And there in verse 32 the Lord assured me that Samson was counted as worthy to be in God's famous hall of faith, even though he committed suicide. I knew the Lord was telling me my Dad was safe with Him. And then to further comfort myself I went to my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8. The Word clearly tells us that as believers in Jesus Christ we are guaranteed that nothing will separate us from His love and the passage that stuck out to me that night and further gave me assurance my Dad is with the Lord is this: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present not things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39 Please notice with me, my friends, that the Lord, in all His blessed kindness tells us the very first thing in His list of things that cannot separate us from His love is DEATH. My Dad chose to put an end to his life. And even his DEATH cannot separate him from God's love. Oh, Hallelujah!!!
My Dad asked me before he died what of his belongings did I want to have. I asked him for his car. It was a nice Toyota Camry that got good gas mileage. My poor old van was always making horrible rumbling sounds that caused me to pray fervently that God would get us from A to B. I promised God when He did get me out of that van that I would give Him all the glory. So, when my Dad left me his car I bought the license tag PRZJESUS. My dear father had that car detailed and full of gas sitting in his garage just waiting for me. There was a legal size folder with my name handwritten on it by him. Inside of it was every receipt for everything he had ever had done to the car, even the original sales sticker that was in the window. He left me information about when the car had tires put on and brakes. He had it all prepared for me. It was so hard getting into that car at first. It smelled like him, of course. His CDs were in the stereo and his glasses were in the visor. Bags of his cough drops were everywhere and he had left the hat we got him for Father's Day in the trunk: "Grandpas are Dads without rules!" I was so grateful that he was still looking out for me even after he had physically departed. Seeing that the car had been detailed really amazed me. My brother, David, said, “What else did you expect? That was Dad. He always took care of everyone.”
The months of grief that have passed have been very difficult. The distribution of his belongings caused many bruised and hurt feelings, even anger in the family. Some family members have said that I was not truly his daughter and therefore not entitled to what he left me. Those words were so painful, but my mom has reminded me that he did count me as his daughter, his final words gave witness to that. She said, “Cling to that. It was the nicest thing he ever did for me; count you and David as his own children.”
In this time of pain I have found myself thinking again and again about that morning that I yelled at him for watching TV and not reading his Bible. What was I thinking? Where was that coming from? I think the Lord allowed me to go deeper into what my motivation was. Here was this man, who to me had always been the “strongest man in the world”. (No offense to my husband is intended here. What girl doesn't compare her husband to her father? I think that's probably normal. Our fathers are the first experience we have as to what a “man” should be to us as women.) My Dad was strong and confident. He was able to build anything and fix anything. He was like Superman to me. And here he was that morning, sitting on his leather couch withering away before my eyes, not fighting it and just dying. I was...I was ANGRY at him. I was so mad at him for NOT FIGHTING that cancer. Yes, he did do the radiation rounds, actually several of them, but to me, more could have been done. Couldn't it? How could he just sit there and die? I couldn't believe it. I wouldn't believe it. I was so mad at him for just giving up. And that, my friends, is what I believe was my motivation for lashing out at him about golf on TV. We do dumb stuff when we are in denial. Don't we? Oh, my heavens, if only I could take it all back and have a grand do-over with my father!
And you know, I inherited his desk and his Bible. I put his desk in my basement along with his old black telephone and his Bible. I go down there and cry my eyes out from time to time. Sometimes I hide there when my kids are driving me crazy and read his Bible. Last week I really was looking for something. I didn't know what. Some kind of sign from him, some last little note to me, personally. And as I carefully turned the pages of his Bible I noticed on the Table of Contents page next to several, even most of the Book titles a tiny black pen circle. My Dad was reading his Bible and he was checking off the books that he had read. It was there, a sign for me personally, he was reading it. I was wrong. And he had told me so. Precious. He was just so precious. And I was such a beast!
Not long after his death, I was informed by Julie's mother, Geri, that Dad came to her shortly after their divorce years and years ago, when David and I were still toddlers. He told her that he planned to adopt us. She told me that she talked him out of it because, “They have a dad of their own”. He went so far as to ask our biological father if he could adopt us. He said, no. He wanted us to have his name. The legal transaction never took place. But, the intent in my Dad's heart never changed. He adopted us and he raised us and he loved us as his very own children and that love extended to ours. He made provisions in his will for our children. He didn't have to do that. But, that was Dad. Always taking care of everyone else.
I think the hardest day since his passing was my birthday. He always took me out to lunch on my birthday. For some reason, I kept expecting him to call all day. Then I got this crazy notion that he had instructed his lawyer to call me and just tell me that my Dad told him to tell me Happy Birthday and that he loved me. That was all I wanted on my forty-first birthday. It didn't happen, of course. Isn't that all part of grief...letting go of the past and accepting the present and the future without those old tender kindnesses that you formerly took for granted? All through high school my Dad sent me roses on my birthday. He'd have the florist deliver them to the house and they always had a card handwritten by him. “Love, Dad”.
The last few Christmases have been financially difficult for me and Rod. My Dad loved to give us extravagant gifts that we could use. I finally told him, “The best gift you can give us is a gift card to Wal-Mart. If the van needs it's oil changed, or a tire or we need groceries or the kids need shoes, we can get any of those things at Wal-Mart”. My Dad gave me a Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas last year. There was a ton of money on it, of course. Now, the card is all used up and empty of value except that the little stripe on the back still says, “Love, Dad” in his handwriting and I can't throw that away. So, I keep it in my wallet, it's not of any use to anyone but me. It's my sweet reminder of how good God was to bless me with a man who called me his own, when my own father didn't want me. My Dad blessed me all the days of my life. He tried so hard to love me and I put my hand up in his face for so long. One day, I will get to see him again. No walls will be there. No conflicting feelings. No loyalty issues. Just God's pure love.
Today is his seventy-fourth birthday. It's been six months since he died. I went to his grave with roses and dark chocolate kisses (his favorite) and left them there with my tears. He's not there. He's with Jesus. I should be glad, just like Gracie said. But, my heart still misses my Dad. God keeps reminding me, “He's with me.” And I believe Him.
The Lord said, “...I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 34:19b