It was my first time coming back since I said goodbye. I knew it would become more real. Distance does that sort of thing to you. You know the facts, but it doesn't seem true when you’re not there to be reminded. I have returned to the place where I heard the last "I love you." Today would have been my father's 74th birthday.
February 25, 2009, he breathed his last. The fragility of the moment still plays out in my mind. Surrounded by love, his physical experience ended as his eternal one began.
It all began on May 19, 1935, in a small farmhouse in Boone’s Hill, Tennessee. His life was challenged from the very beginning. He was delivered by an inebriated doctor. As his tiny blue body struggled to breathe, his parents wondered if he would live. The heavens rejoiced as that first cry escaped his lungs.
Times were tough and money was scarce. Early in his childhood, their small house caught fire. He was told to gather his sister and head to the creek. His parents tried to rescue their meager belongings while the fire consumed their house. What does a small child do with that?
His father was in the Army and there were times his mother was the only parent present. His childhood was spent moving from town to town. He moved 8 times before finally settling down in Chattanooga. It's where he met and fell in love with my mother. It's where I was born and raised.
I was my daddy's girl. I still am. I miss him so terribly at times that my heart aches. Sometimes I wish I had one last conversation... one last day to tell him all the things that I've thought of since he left. Some days I imagine him watching me. I envision him gathering my tears and taking them to Papa God. I believe he sees all that was in my heart towards him. I believe he lives in complete love now, aware of how deeply he was loved. It's what comforts me.
Sometimes you don't see things until after the fact. Imperfect beings who struggle to know they are themselves loved, are hindered from revealing how deeply they love. It does not change the facts though. Love waits in the hearts of all mankind to be revealed. We are after all created in the image of God, the One who is love.
I realize the brokenness of this world when I see the lies that I battled for so long. Love was always there in my father's heart. At times he himself was too broken to let it out. He didn't know how. At times I didn’t know how to see it. I translated his actions or lack of them and somewhere in the mix, things got screwed up.
I see the truth now and it’s staggering. Love was waiting for me before I took my first breath. First with my Papa God and secondly with my daddy. For too many years I was blocked off from both unable to receive. I tried to earn my way, it only hindered things. Either way, it doesn’t change the facts. Love was always there waiting.
I could not embrace the love of another until I received the love of God as it was, a gift. A gift is meant to be opened and received, no strings attached. Once I received and took this gift as my own, my world opened up.
An enemy prowls around seeking to destroy what God ordained. For the truth is, if we live as ones who are loved, we will be the very breath of God on the earth.
There’s something about losing a parent that changes things. Though I know life was hard at times, those memories are fading. What I now see is that all along there was love, sometimes hibernating, but always there.
Life is fleeting. It vanishes in a vapor and is no more. Before my daddy’s life vanished I was given a gift. As he struggled to breathe I told him once again that I loved him. He, through labored breaths tried to tell me he loved me too. It was then I said, “It’s OK Daddy, you don’t have to tell me, I know you love me.” And I did. I carry those brief seconds with me for they are the declaration of my reality.
But today, if for one more moment, I could have one more conversation, I know what I would say. "Daddy, the love that was borne 74 years ago in your heart lives on today....... in me.” “Your forever girl.”