A Letter to my Dad on the 13th Anniversary of His Death

Dear Dad,

Every year I wait for the sting to be a little less potent, but despite the well-wishes of others, it never gets easier. Every year that passes without you I lose more of you.

I forgot a long time ago what your voice sounds like, it wasn’t until last year when I found home movies that I heard you again, and I cried for hours because Eli sounds just like you. If I’m honest, sometimes when I see Eli I panic, because something in my heart still thinks that you’re going to walk through my front door someday and prove this is some sort  of elongated nightmare.

I think that I am more angry than anything else. I often look at the hand I’ve been dealt with so much disdain that it cripples me. I wonder why in twenty years I’ve lived more life than some fifty year olds, and more often than not this leads me to bitterness instead of empathy.

I am so lucky. I had six amazing years with a father who loved me more than life itself. I understood, from you, what it looked like to love as hard as you can, with every fiber of your being, on everyone. What it means to love without ceasing. I know you did this because on the day of your memorial service we packed out an entire two story church auditorium with hundreds of people whose lives you had impacted by simply existing. I remember that day I left the service early. I thought that I could be a big girl, that I could sit through the ceremony because I wanted to believe that I could find you somewhere in the tears of others, but the longer I sat there underneath the massive screen blowing through pictures of you the more I realized that there would never be a new one. Those pictures were all that I had left.

Today when I look at pictures I still weep. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I’m not that little girl, sitting on a church pew in a brand new dress, crying over her Daddy. I feel like my childhood ended at age seven. Trapped inside of me is an Amethyst still looking for her Daddy, and as I go onto my twentieth year, I wonder if she’ll ever grow up. I feel like she’s mad because she feels like you left her.

I think I view your death through the same lens that I view the men who have been so careless to bulldoze their way through my life. I used to take pride in the idea that I had survived life without a Dad without “daddy issues,” but the longer I go through this life, the more I begin to recognize the ramifications of your absence in every bit of my relationships with other people; especially men. You were supposed to teach me what it means to be loved by a man, to be treasured, to be a princess; and you did such a stellar job in those first six years that the time without you has been even more devastating. I think when it comes down to relationships with the opposite sex that’s where seven year old Amethyst screams the loudest. I get so angry that sometimes I almost wish that you hadn’t loved me so well because at least then I would have nothing to compare your absence to.

And the void feels so much deeper when I remember that you’ll never be here for anything in my life as I grow up. When I get married, you won’t be there. When I graduate, you won’t be there. When I become a parent, you won’t be there. And there’s so much sentimental talk that despite physical absence, you’re still there, and most of the time I believe that, but at this time of year when I feel your absence the deepest, I cannot believe it. You are gone. I hate that every moment in my life feels like a reminder of that. Every accomplishment is tainted by your lack of presence.

I often wonder if you would be proud of me if you were here today. I think of all of the things that I have done to follow in your footsteps. Even going to college at all was a tiny quest to find you, and sometimes I see pieces, but mostly I feel absence. I wish I didn’t dread momentum, I wish that I always embraced it, but the further I move along in this life the realer your death becomes.

You’re dead.

I hate when people won’t use the word dead to describe it because that’s the truth. You didn’t “pass away,” it was an abrupt loss. One minute you were tucking me into bed and the next minute I woke up without you. I never even got to say goodbye.

Not at your memorial, not at your burial. I never said goodbye because it never made sense that someone as healthy as you could just die like that.

It terrifies me. When I think about my future babies, and my future family, I sometimes wonder if I should even have one at all. And that seems ridiculous, because its all I’ve ever wanted and its also a paranoid fear, but I am afraid of even a sliver of possibility that my children would grow up without a parent or that I would pass the disease to them. Even though those things are like a 1/million chance – but then again, so was your death.

We’ve been through so much without you. Mom and Eli and I have scrambled for whatever semblance of a life we could find without you, but its never been easy. I’ve been bitter for a long time, I wonder a lot if I will ever move past that.

This isn’t what you wanted for our lives. This isn’t what God wanted for his children.

I have to believe that. No one knows what it is like to live life after your death, there are hundreds of people who know what its like to lose a parent, but no one that knows what its like for me to have lost you. I think that there is an unspoken agreement between us who have been left behind by parents who left too soon, because the death of any parent at any age will always feel too soon, that we stand together in our understanding that while we may know what it feels like to lose, we will never know how it feels to lose the way we did. I am grateful for the men and women that the Lord has given me to stand in the solidarity of loss, but I am forever frustrated that I feel forever alone in my grief.

But I think some of that is good. Maybe even healthy. Because while no one knows what it feels like for little Amethyst to have lost her father, I am loved by people who know what it is like to have lost you and others who know what it is like to lose a father, and we get to weep in a different way because of that. It’s a constant battle between the pain of solitude and the thankfulness of God’s sovereignty.

Now its been thirteen years.

Thirteen years is a long time, and I’m intimately aware of the knowledge that every year I grow older this number will age with me.

I long to hear your voice. I pray for comfort. I ask the Lord for wisdom, for the freedom to live in hope and life after your death, and even when I don’t want to admit it, he is so faithful; because even though life after you has been difficult, he has remained. Where others lack the strength to carry on I have more than grit, I have hope. Because it might be fifty more years, seventy more years, three years, three hours even,  that I get here on this earth without you, but at the end of the race when I finally meet my end I don’t believe in darkness, I believe in a light so blinding that I get to feel its warmth in my bones with every step I take closer to infinity. I believe that even though you’re not here with me now, even though sometimes I’m angry and others I’m just devastated, in the unfairness and the doubt of it all, on the mornings when getting out of bed to a world I feel forsaken by leads me back to the realization that you’re gone, I know that even after your death it is not the end.

This verse was on the back of your memorial service pamphlet, and I carry it with me always:

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.”

-Lamentations 3:32-33

So until we meet again, I miss you more than words and I hope I am making you proud.

Your baby girl,

Sparky

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