Dear Dad, (Letter 1)



You have been gone for half of my life now.  Some days this fact astounds me.  Other days, you are a stranger to me.  Don’t get me wrong.  You left a permanent imprint.  You left your mark in a profound way….

But your voice is faint and sometimes inaudible in my mind.  Your face is familiar only through photographs.  I don’t remember the subtleties of your expressions, the strangely beautiful shade of your eyes, your movements, your touch.

What I have is a permanent impression of a person who marked me with such force, the entire course of my life was altered.  I remember how you made me feel secure, even in the midst of such chaos.  I see shadows in my mind of afternoon naps with you on the couch and ever-so-faint remembrances of sitting on your lap when I was much too old to do so.

I am marked by your strength.  I sometimes wallow…. feeling so sorry that I only knew you for 16 years, wondering if I really knew you at all.  Then I recognize that in some ways, I knew you better than most.  I knew the Dad who was tried by fire and came out as gold.  I have no specific memories of you pre-cancer.  I’m sure that is sad for some to hear.  However, I have come to recognize that cancer was not our enemy.  Cancer was the fire through which you passed, allowing God to remove the impurities.

Cancer was the battle you fought that made you a warrior.  Cancer stripped you of any self-reliance and threw you into trust of a loving Savior.  You allowed the trial of cancer to show you what was truly important in life, and I would be living in denial to think that somehow I didn’t benefit from that realization.

You loved me fiercely.  I never doubted it for a moment.  Dad, you used your limited time with me so, so wisely.  You poured your heart and too-short life into introducing me to Jesus.  It was not an easy introduction.  I met the Jesus who walks us through the fire.  Dad, we both came out as gold.  What more could I have asked for?

Time?  Maybe.  And yet….. maybe all of that pressure on you, and therefore on me, is what allowed your imprint to be permanent on my person.  Lasting.  Never even fading for a moment.

I have the days when I long to hear your voice, feel your touch, seek your counsel, share with you in my joys, burden you with my heartaches, benefit from your wisdom, see your face.

But if not for cancer, if not for God transforming you through that fire, you wouldn’t have been the dad I knew.  I wouldn’t be me.  So I trust in the One who works all things together for good.  You taught me about him.  You taught me that lesson.  It is imprinted on my very being.






  1. Lori Slabaugh says

    Wow! We are on our way home from camp and I see this on fb I spoke of your dad this morning. I am crying, like a baby, for many reasons. He was your Dad but also a mentor, my boss, my pastor, the man of God who married Bob and I, and like a father to me. This is very timely for me. Rachael he would be so prud of the woman of God you have become! You are strong like him, intelligent like him and have his adventurous spirit. Your ability to express yourself in your writings is very moving. Thank you for this. I look forward to future letters. He loved you! You are blessed!

  2. Billie says

    I knew when I saw this title that I was soon going to cry. Your dad was a wonderful man. I recall his lessons to me almost daily and often share them with others. His wisdom was far beyond most people I have ever known. He was my pastor from age 11 through 24, and was there for me during some difficult times. And, like Lori, was the one who married Brad and I, which is so special to me. He had such a profound impact on my life, and I feel very honored to have known him and called him my Pastor. This letter is a wonderful tribute to him. He would be proud of you, and so am I.

  3. Tanya says

    Wow that was beautiful! Your dad helped marry me and tony as well. I
    Knew him as a uncle who I loved so very much. I remember him coming to the lake so
    Early in the morning and bring donuts and waking everyone in the house up he
    Didn’t think anyone should sleep past 7:00am we would all try and drown him out lol
    I remember how much he loved finally having a girl and how gentle he
    Was with you. I also remember how he and your mom gave me my first
    Experience in ministry at age 16 and let me do a vbs and your dad let me bring
    Hay and put all over the platform and didn’t say a word he let me do my thing
    (Even though we were still picking hay out of carpet weeks later lol) he started
    Me on my journey serving in ministry! He would be very proud of you and Jimmie and the
    Impact you are having in your community! I miss him too!

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