Not surprisingly, I've been thinking about my daddy a lot more than usual the past few days. What an amazing man and father he was. In trying to organize my thoughts for this post, a couple of different things crossed my mind.
My daddy was the father to 3 girls. And you know what? I was his favorite one.
As was my sister, Michele.
As was my other sister, Sarah.
I don't know how he did it, but he made each of us feel as if we were the most important girl on the planet (aside from Mama, of course). I don't know how familiar you are with sisters, but there can be quite a bit of competition between them. How my daddy was able to make 3 very different girls each feel so special is a testament to the man he was.
Now don't get me wrong - we each had our share of the belt - he certainly knew how to discipline - but we knew we were unconditionally loved by he and Mama.
I've also been thinking a lot about the night he died. I was the only one of us 3 girls that was able to be with him that night. Ivan and I had married in July and were living in Arkadelphia, Arkansas at the time. We traveled "home" to Kansas for Christmas. Daddy had been diagnosed with cancer that July, and we knew his time was short. My sisters were both due to arrive the day after we did.
Ivan and I pulled into the driveway around 9:00 p.m. I noticed a few extra cars in the driveway but for some reason, didn't think anything about it. We headed into the house, and there was Mama and Daddy's pastor. Mama came out of the back room and wanted to talk to us before we went back to see him. Daddy had not been doing well for the past 3 days - Mama knew his time on earth was very quickly coming to an end. She hadn't told us before we drove 8 hours, because she wanted us to be safe. (That's a mama for you, huh?) However, now that we were there, she needed to prepare us before we saw him.
My daddy had aged 30 years in about 30 days. I had seen him at Thanksgiving - he'd had a huge belly full of fluid, but otherwise pretty much looked like himself. I had teased him at that time about when his baby was due. Now, on the 21st of December, he looked like a man in his 90's.
He had been on hospice for about 2 weeks - I, personally, was so thankful we were all at home. Ivan, Mama and I stayed in his room with him all night. He was asleep most of the time. When he was awake, some of his talk seemed to be gibberish. Some was not. I remember him talking to the wall. He woke up, looked to his right, and started saying,
"Now, you take care of Nancy for me. Take care of her."
Mama asked who he was talking to. He replied,
"The angels. There's one right here, there's one at the end of the bed, and there's one in that corner."
He also talked about the hundreds of butterflies he was seeing.
It was absolutely amazing. I remember holding his hand a lot that night. I'm sure Mama and I were taking turns. As "out of it" as he was most of the night, every single time I told him I loved him, he said,
"I love you, too, hon."
He took his last breath by 9:00 that next morning. Sarah was already en route, and Mama called Michele in Missouri and told her he was gone. Michele's family was already getting ready to come when they got the call. I'm so thankful that I was able to be there with him, but I'll never understand why it wasn't in God's plan for my sisters to be there, too.
On Christmas morning, 3 days later, there were many gifts under the tree. Mama told us a story before we were able to open anything.
She told us that when Daddy was first diagnosed, one of the first things he said was,
"I've got to make those girls their shelves".
He had made Mama a little bookshelf for her cookbooks a few years prior. We all said we wanted one, and had all gotten married in the meantime. Daddy remembered telling us that he would make us one.
He wasn't able to do it all on his own. He had a lot of help at the end. But we each had a bookshelf under the tree.
Haven't you heard about people who are dying kind of "holding on" for something specific? Mama said that as soon as the last bookshelf was wrapped that previous Saturday, he let go. Within 3 days, he was in heaven with Jesus. She firmly believed that he was holding on until he knew our last gifts from him were done.
And we do, too.
Not surprisingly, I see a lot of my daddy in Ivan. I have no doubt that one day, our 3 girls will all feel as if they were his favorite. And that is as it should be.
I think about Daddy every day. I wish my girls knew him. I wonder if he would be proud of me as a mom, and I wonder how close he and Ivan would be if he were still with us. I have had a blessed life - I grew up in a home of security and love. I didn't have to try to win my parents' affection. I'm so thankful for every moment I had with Daddy, and I try to cherish my loved ones that are still with me in the same way.
On this Father's Day, I can't help but think about our Heavenly Father, and how secure and loved we should feel in Him.
He can make you feel as if you are His favorite.
Because He loves you.
And He is holding on for something, too. For us to live for Him.
I'm so thankful I had a Daddy who did that. And who loved his family as Christ loved the church.
I love and miss you, Daddy. I wish you were here.
Daddy as a toddler.