Dear Dad, Letter 3

Dad

Dear Dad,

I wondered how October would feel when it came around this year.

Your absence is always felt on the 5th.  I spent the day wondering what we would have done to celebrate your birthday.  You were not a man of celebrations.  I can’t seem to recall even one birthday celebration for you.  I’m sure we had them, but perhaps your lack of enthusiasm keeps anything from standing out in my mind.  So what would have been your 71st birthday passed and was fairly uneventful.

Sunday marks 16 years you have been gone.  A few years back I began wondering what this landmark would feel like.  This year, Dad, is the year that marks you being gone for half of my life.  I am 32.  You have been gone 16 years.

__________________________

I learned not to be afraid of death.  I learned that lesson at a young age and you were my teacher.  I can’t recall whose funeral it was, but I vividly remember you making me touch the dead body.  I wasn’t resistant, just curious.  When I felt the cold, unnatural skin, you explained that the soul had left the body, and that the soul is the essence of a human.  What was left was a shell, nothing more.

__________________________

“What’s the worst they can do?  KILL ME?”

I heard this line so many times during your sermons and lessons.  It was often in reference to passages about persecution.  Even as a young girl, I could come up with things worse than being killed.  But I knew what you meant.  You didn’t fear death and your fearlessness made you a hero to me, strong and courageous.

_________________________

Do you remember the day I came into the ICU alone?  You had suffered beyond comprehension.  Every organ seemed to be failing after the bone marrow transplant.  Mom was spent.  The future was unclear.  Prayers were rising up as a continual vapor on your behalf, but the suffering seemed never-ending.  It was rare for me to have a moment alone with you.

Do you remember what I said?

I spoke truth from my heart.  The words came easily.

“It’s okay, Dad.  You can go.  I will be okay.”

I wasn’t afraid of death.  I was only afraid of my life after your death.

_________________________

People have called me morbid.  As a student of sociology, I took classes like sociology of death and dying.  I can talk openly about my own mortality.

I recognize on a daily basis that my future is unknown.  I could live into my 90’s like your dad.  I could die of cancer at 55 like you did.  My life could end Thursday on my commute to work.  My life is a vapor.  Your death taught me that.

I don’t see this as a problem.  I see this as a gift, Dad.  A gift you gave to me until you breathed your last breath.

In recognizing that my every breath is numbered, I choose every day to live.

When you came to the end of your life, you had lived more than most live in a lifetime.  You loved well, had a beautiful family, a successful career, traveled the world and were adventurous.  Most importantly, you spent your life for the Kingdom of God.  You built a church, poured yourself into making disciples, loved and studied the Word of God, prayed without ceasing, and knew the Savior.

You knew Him all the way to your final breath.  You trusted Him with your future until the moment He called you home.

_________________________

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes….” (James 4:13-14)

________________________

I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not living.  When I come to the end, I want to breathe my last breath having spent myself tirelessly and completely for Kingdom purposes.  I want to know my Savior personally.  I want the Word to live and breathe through me.  I want to be like you, Dad.

So this month I celebrate your birth and life, mourn your death, and celebrate your resurrection into eternal life.

And through it all, I miss you.

Love,

Rachael

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad, Letter 1

 

I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie)

Dear Jimmie,

Today is your birthday.  You are 32 and I realize that I have spent over half of my life loving you.  I can’t remember the exact moment I fell in love, but I remember whispering to a friend at such a young age, “I will marry him.”

d2deebf8472f11e28fa722000a1fbcea_7

The road hasn’t been easy.  Not by any means.  You comforted me through the greatest loss I faced at 16.  You patiently waited while I searched for something or someone to fill up that hole in my heart.  Had I only paid attention from the start, I would have realized that your unselfish love always pointed me to the only one who could fill that void.

We were too young.  Of course we were.  And yet I knew, I knew, I KNEW… God had sent you into my life.  He sent me into yours.  I had lost the man I loved all of my childhood, and God sent you to me early…. a precious gift.  I would never trade even one of those early years.  Married at 19 simply means we have had more years to love each other.

I haven’t forgotten.  The day you forgave… instantly… my transgressions with a gracious embrace that turned me toward the light and freedom of love.  That is who you are.  One who forgives.

The rocky road we walked, recognizing that His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

We had weaknesses, let’s not forget.

And then we had the kind of new beginning that only a resurrected Savior can offer.  You loved me through those times and I will never forget.   You chose me over and over again, demonstrating the kind of love that has no boundaries, made possible only by your continual choice to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.

IMG_0156

I witnessed as you and I propelled, as the minister prophesied…. propelled into a ministry that was more terrifying and rewarding than I ever could have imagined.  We walked those dusty streets in the tropical sun, and were reborn again.  Reborn into a purpose beyond anything we could ask or think.  I watched you transform into an empty, willing vessel.  And I was proud.

Despite your youth, you proclaimed the gospel, stood for justice and mercy, held your ground, and poured yourself into people and purpose.  Your compassion and love for humanity poured from you, in prayers, lifestyle and conversation.

jimmie

I will never forget what it felt like to be united for a common purpose in a strange land that somehow felt like home…. away from everything and everyone familiar, we walked hand-in-hand through the new terrain. Our marriage and our love were reborn and we have never been the same.

_________________________________________________________________

Some people have us all wrong, thinking I am strong because I communicate more.  Or thinking I am the forgiving one because I put on a smile in the midst of heartbreak and anger.

But you…. you exude strength.  You are filled with the strength that comes only from having an unquestionable purpose.  You work and pray and work and pray to see the Kingdom come.  You forgive freely, praying earnestly for your enemies.  You are so filled with the love of God that it spills out into all aspects of your life.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.

When I interject my name in the place of “love” in this passage from Corinthians, I feel like a liar.  When I interject your name, Jimmie, I feel like I am accurately describing so many aspects of your personality.  You have loved me patiently, in spite of my irritability and stubbornness.  You are kind to all.  On and on it goes.  You endure all things.  Your love never ends.

You are the human face of God’s love in my life.  You love me enough to call me out on my nonsense.  You love me enough to make space for my gifts and callings.  You love me enough to forgive, time and time again, no matter how great or small the offense.  You love me enough to pull me up when I’m sinking.  You love me enough to point me to Jesus…. every time.

rachael

______________________________________________________

I have never gushed about you in public like this.  I know you prefer to fly under the radar.  I know you never want people to see you, only Jesus.  But today you are 32 and I celebrate you.  I honor you.  And I can only hope to love you the way you love all.

Happy Birthday.

Yours,

sig