I never quite know what to expect on Father’s Day.
It always includes celebration of my husband who is a selfless and engaged father to our girls. I feel thankful for my father-in-law who is so attentive with my girls and supportive of our family. I spend time reflecting on the step-father in my life who embraces my family as his own and loves us so completely.
Mostly, though, I think about my dad who has been gone as many years now as I knew him…. half of my life. Sometimes I have happy recollections and feel gratitude for the time I had with him. Other times, Father’s Day is a dark day, full of anger, resentment at the happy celebrations around me, and feelings of abandonment.
This past Sunday was somewhere in between. I was doing okay until I watched this short film:
And What Remains It is beautiful and moving and for whatever reason, sent me into a spiral of grief and sadness.
They whys and hows of the waves of grief have no explanation. I can just tell you that I had not felt so overwhelmed by grief for a very long time.
My compassionate and ever so patient husband does everything right in those moments. He doesn’t press me to talk or try to fix anything. And yet, in that moment, his attempts at comfort were not what I needed.
His dad lives 20 minutes down the road and can be reached within seconds on the phone, visited within a half hour in the car.
I have a long-time friend who lost her father suddenly a few years ago. She is one of the most genuine, honest and insightful people I know. In that moment of my grief, I sent her a text to “check on her,” but what I really wanted was to remind myself that I was not alone.
Here are some excerpts from our text conversation (shared with permission)….
“A very hard bond we share. Oddly today is harder than years past. I suppose because I haven’t thought about him in a while.”
“I am struggling today for some reason. It’s hard sometimes, recognizing the memories are fading.”
“Yes. The realization that there won’t be new ones and we’ll keep reliving the same ones.”
“I feel like I’m grasping to hold onto them, yet it’s not working.”
“I remember him now more as an idea than as a person. Does that make sense?”
“Yes it does.”
“I’m sorry yet thankful to share this hard bond with you. Most people our age don’t understand.”
“They don’t. I’m thankful for you because it’s hard for anyone to grasp until they experience it.”
“I see pictures of him sometimes and realize I had not imagined his face in a long time. His voice is hard to hear.”
This conversation brought more comfort than I can convey. Just knowing that she was experiencing some of the same emotions I felt so strongly made me feel that I wasn’t alone.
I sent messages to a couple other friends who have lost their fathers recently. I wanted them to know they weren’t alone either, and that I was praying for them.
Isn’t that what we all need at our very core? To know we aren’t alone?
Later that evening, I felt compelled to look through old photos. I came across this one, saw the date and couldn’t stop staring.
This was my school photo, taken my junior year, weeks before my father’s death. He was actually dying as I smiled for the camera. I found it so astounding to look at this photograph and feel I was looking at a stranger. There are so many things I would love to tell this girl in the photo. I would tell her it is okay to be sad and to hurt. I would tell her pretending won’t get her anywhere. I would tell her the guy she is already in love with will never leave her side and will be her husband. I would tell her God will send strong, loving men into her life to be father figures to her. Mostly, though, I would tell her she’s not alone. I would tell her that God will step in as Father. And I would tell her that she has friends who care and always will, even 16 years from now.
Thanks to my friend (you know who you are) for reminding me I’m not alone. Love you.
Are there particular holidays or days of the year that are difficult for you? We all have lost someone we love…. do you find it is helpful to talk with someone who has been through a similar experience? Do you find comfort in using your difficult experiences to help others going through similar situations? I would love your feedback!
Read more about my struggle with faith after my father’s death on my post, A (Re)Gathering of Faith.