Posts tagged dad stories

For a week now, I have been swimming in the fitful waters of mourning. Sadness surrounds me. Loss weighs so heavily sometimes I find it hard to breathe.

I have been pulled up short—surprised by this unpredictable ebb and flow of tears.

I sit at the desk my dad made for me with his own hands. For a man of few words, the eloquence of his handcrafted message was just the affirmation I needed to gather up courage to write. He approved, and I bask in both the affirmation and approval even as I grieve the fact that he will never run his hands over the cover of my book as I run my hands over the surface of this desk.

Somehow I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t really grieve Dad’s death. After all, he’d been diagnosed with this terrible terminal disease of the lungs four years ago. I’d watched the devastation, prayed for his release, begged God to take him home.

“I’m grieving with Dad,” I’d said, “so that when he’s gone I’ll just be happy for him.”


I’ve heard of people who have a definite sense of their loved one’s presence even after death, but I only feel his gone-ness. He isn’t here, hasn’t been since I held him in my arms frantically searching for signs of life.

I know where he is. I know without even a hint of doubt. But as assuring as that is, I am still reeling with the realization of the separation.

And so I mourn honestly— not the man who was so terribly weak and struggling for air— but the J.H. Waterman who gave me life, whose love never wavered, the man whose steadfast faithfulness informed my view of God.

It is His presence I sense so near in these hours of sadness. As if the Father is nearer or clearer, as if He pulls me closer in my longing for Dad. As if I hear my Father better because my dad is with Him.

There is a strange sweetness in this place of mourning, a deep rest. A togetherness with God.

Because I think He is sad too, that He weeps with me. It wasn’t supposed to be this way and that’s why we mourn.

That’s why tears redden my eyes and sighs escape unbidden. Why grieving and loss of any kind cannot be stuffed into a nice clean package and tied with a tidy bow. Why life screeches to a halt and only resumes at half speed.

Why we dread death.

Life was supposed to be a grand celebration in His presence, a great cooperation with God. Life was planned as an endlessly eternal connection with the One who made us in His image, for His delight.

And Someday it will be again. Because of Jesus. Because He chose to die to make it all right.

While we wait for that Someday, sadness is part of our stories. We cannot will it or wish it away. We dare not pretend or push it from sight.

But we can invite Him in to mourn with us; we can sit in the quiet of loss and hear Him speak. And we can listen to His words in the silence and let Him pour oil on the raw hurt.

I’m listening now, finding joy in the midst of sadness. Relishing His presence here.

From my heart,


Have you heard Him in the silence of sadness? Have you seen Him at work even when life stops suddenly? Can you tell us how? Remind us what to listen for as we navigate our own stories?


(image by Bethany Small)


He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21v4

My dad died yesterday.

And today I am sad. Not despairing, not grief-stricken, not angry that life isn’t what I wish it was. Just sad.

And I feel a little spoiled in my sadness because I am fully aware that what I lost is so much more than most of you have ever had. 

And mind you, I have not lost my father. Because in the early 70’s at a church in California, my dad changed the course of our lives by becoming a follower of Jesus. And now he’s followed Him right up close into His presence, the place I’ll go someday too.

No, I haven’t lost Dad, but I have lost his presence with me.

He’s not here this morning having coffee with cream and two scoops of sugar, talking about what I want to talk about: because that’s what good dad’s do.

And I wish, oh how I wish, that each of you had a dad like mine.

I grieve for you with the Father because He wishes that too. And if you’ll indulge me just a bit, can I tell you about good dads?

Here’s a list:

1.  Good dads fix things. My dad fixed my broken hair dryer, my flat tire, my inadequate study habits, my teenage drama with my mom. He made life right for me when I couldn’t turn myself right side up. And even though I told him over and over, I don’t think he ever thought any of that was a big deal. Just dad stuff.

2.  Good dads get it. My dad certainly did. He got that I was different, would always be different, and that difference was okay by him. A contemplative feeler, ponderer, thinker, reader in a family of highly competitive task oriented doers. He normalized me to my “lets-get-to-it!” mom and paved the way for us to become friends. Because of him we grieve together without tension.

3.  Good dads are present.My father was a brainiac nuclear engineer. Yet he bought cowboy boots when he helped me achieve my dream of having a horse. He learned the lingo: palominos, bits and tie downs, dressage and hoof rot. And I don’t think he actually ever did like that whole equine world, but the truth is, wild horses couldn’t have pulled him from being part of it with me.

4.  Good dads stay faithful. My dad did. In good times and bad, he chose to love my mom and to eschew the “grass is greener” temptation to find happiness elsewhere. As long as I can remember, Dad did his level best to love mom well. Dad would have been appalled at any suggestion otherwise.

5.  Good dads take care of their own. When he married my mom he was a 19 year old with one goal: to never be poor again. With that in mind he put himself through college, poured himself into his career, lived beneath his income always so that he could give us what we needed. At the same time, his aversion to the risk of credit and the flash of status spending kept all of us grounded in fiscal reality. He bought his jeans at Walmart and his cars used even when he could have afforded much more. He was fiddling with his finances the day before he died, just to be sure mom would be well cared for.

6.  Good dads provide safety. My sister’s words to me this morning: “We had a great dad. He made me feel safe…” He did. And I’m not even sure how he did it, though I’m going to think long and hard about that. But mostly I think he was just good and a good man becomes a safe place for his family.

There’s more of course, but this day demands my attention and so I’ll end here for now. Somehow just writing these words helps me to understand why I’m sad today and why that’s okay.

I miss my dad already. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life. And then… my real Father will wipe away every tear and I’ll join my dad in spending the rest of forever in awe of Him.

Waiting with honest eagerness for that Day…

From my heart,


P.S. Thank you to the many of you who have already emailed and texted your heart-felt condolences. I’m relishing every word, drinking in your kindness.




Dear girls,

As you read this I am on my way to California.

I’ll leave my cozy cottage nestled in the woods and spend a few days at my sister’s house in the sunshine.

And since she’s about the best decorator/home creator I know, I will no doubt spend every spare minute oohing and ahhing over beauty. I’ll take pictures and make notes and go home full of ideas for creating loveliness. We’ll stay up too late and she’ll get up too early to go to her job that is really a calling. (remind me to tell you that story some day— for all of you who work hard to help people. But for now, follow her on Pinterest for design inspiration! @darcyscott)

But that’s now why I’m going.

My dad— the one I’ve written stories about is sick. Very sick.

While his brilliant engineer mind is still working at full throttle, his once strong, always-up-for-a-challenge body is failing. And so he is saying good-bye to his beloved Sierra mountains and moving to the Northwest.

A bittersweet journey.

I’ll tuck my parents into their sweet red Lexus (another story about love I’ll need to be sure to tell you soon), load in their luggage and their dog and Dad’s great big oxygen concentrator, and we’ll head north. I’ve got John Mark’s podcasts on heaven loaded and ready for listening. 

And I’ve got myself ready too- for remembering and reminding and reminiscing.

I’ll remember all those stories still vivid in my mind…

Of Dad at the wheel of our Opel sedan, setting off to discover strange and intriguing ands while we lived in Germany. How a poor farm boy choose to succeed by hard work and loyalty. How my mom made every adventure seem magical, green Bedecker guide books always open as she rooted our imaginations in history.

We’ll reminisce about those days of discovering Jesus for the first time. When a traffic jam made us want to go to that church causing the long wait. Why, we wondered, were so many people headed to that warehouse? And how, over the next months, one by one, the five of us each walked down the aisle with “Just As I Am” playing softly in the background. We’ll talk about how Jesus changed everything. How the best stories started then.

I’ll remind them what they know, but need to know again, that Dad is not really dying, though his body will soon. That eternal life is just that- eternal, forever, uninterrupted, ceaseless. That he will step into the presence of the One who changed our lives by His own death. That One we love because He loved us first— that One whose love made it possible for us to love each other even in all the ups and downs of our own brokenness.

And I want to talk and imagine and dream about what life will be like when Jesus comes back to redeem all of creation once again.

Because hope for what’s really ahead brings hope for the hard steps before we get there.

And those hard steps are getting closer now. We won’t have Dad much longer. While we do I want to drink him in, to make more stories, to bring my grandboys and grandgirls to sit by his side as I did as a little girl. I want them to feel the safety of who he is. I want them to know that they belong to him, that his faithful love courses through their veins, giving them a bent towards courage and greatness.

I want my children to remember the kind of man who is their heritage so that when life gets hard they know to put one foot in front of the other just like Papa and then to just keep giving and loving and taking care of their own.

Like Dad.

From my heart,


P.S. I am hoping that some of you who live near me can meet my dad before he goes there. I long to share him with some of the young men I know who’ve never seen his kind of faithfulness up close and I want young women to know the kind of man who loves for a lifetime. I want you to see why I wish everyone had a dad like mine.


(photo by Bethany Small)

DAD STORIES: memories from a man who got it right

I’ve told you about my dad— how, without actually meaning to, he’s shaped my faith in God.

(my daughter, Rebekah and my dad)

My dad has shown me in his own way— in his way with me, how the Father is.

How He loves…

How He welcomes…

How He wants to be with me on those early, intimate mornings.

Because of Dad, trusting God has been, if not exactly easy, at least simple for me.

One night, many years ago, when my old nemesis, Fear, started to choke the joy out of my daily life, the memories of my dad’s way with me broke those chains…

It was late and I lay in bed wide-awake. Alone and afraid.

My husband traveled as a part of his job in those days, sometimes for weeks at a time. On this night he was an ocean way, unavailable, unreachable, unable to calm me down or cheer me up. I’d suffered the insomnia of fear every night he was gone.

Too exhausted to sleep, too afraid to allow myself to rest, my façade of courage was crumbling.

My fear teetered towards terror.

A deaf woman alone at night with three children sleeping blithely in their bedrooms— every possibility presenting itself in colored array as I desperately prayed those demons away.

What if someone breaks in the house? Would I hear them? No.

What if there’s a fire? Would I hear the alarm? No.

What if someone big and mean and bad comes barging in the front door… no, no, no!

I can’t hear! I can’t protect my children! I can’t be safe!

I sat awake, hearing aids at full volume, baseball bat at hand.

I prayed, of course. 

Desperate liturgies for protection: for angels, for hedges, for walls and warriors to watch over me.

And I laugh a little now, but at the time, that helplessness felt immensely more real than any assurances of the safety of my neighborhood or the ridiculousness of my fears.

Yet still…in spite of the unreasonableness of my angst, God brought Himself into my runaway fears.

Instead of scoffing: You’re a grown-up, Di, get over it!

Instead of shame: Where’s your faith?

Instead of platitudes: Angels are watching over you…

He reminded me of my dad.

Every night when I was growing up, my dad walked through our house just before going to bed. He checked doors, turned down the heater, closed windows, peeked in on each of us kids.

Making the rounds like a night watchman.

Making sure I was safe.

Making me feel safe.

Never once, in all my years at home did I beg Dad to take care of me. I didn’t plead for protection from the invisible bad guys. Didn’t remind him to lock up. Didn’t keep a baseball bat close just in case.


I didn’t need to ask for protection because I slept close to my protector.

God, I realized, is just like my dad!

In fact, I began to suspect that all my begging might be an insult to Him. Of course He’s watching over me! 

Instead of desperate rituals of praying for angels to surround me, instead of walking through every worry, and making sure He knew all about how He should handle it, and why, and what I wanted Him to do…

Maybe I should just thank Him for all the nights He’d watched over me.

Just like Dad.

Years and years and decades of nights. No bad guys, no break-ins, no monsters under the bed.

Just my great big God watching over me while I slept.

I drifted off to sleep that night whispering thanks.

And every night after that, whenever the reality of being a deaf woman alone started to feel unsafe, whenever fear threated to keep me up, I felt that grip of safe assurance— of my Father being just like my dad—steady, dependable, present.

He loved me… just like Dad.

He was up to the task of taking care of me… just like Dad.

I could practically feel Him locking up tight, making the rounds, checking in to be sure I was okay… just like my Dad.

My dad spent all my growing up years watching over me. Sometimes in simple ways like locking up at night. Sometimes in harder-to-swallow ways like restricting my freedom lest my naivete leave me unprotected.

I wasn’t always grateful. I didn’t always understand. I wasn’t always nice about not understanding. In fact, he could tell you stories about me not being nice or grateful or understanding…

But that didn’t stop him.

Because my dad cared enough to take care of me… and so does my Father.

From my heart,



1.    He watched over me.

2.    He was there— down the hall, next to mom, no matter what.

3.    He didn’t mock my fears.

4.    He kept watching over me even when I didn’t think I needed him.

5.    He showed me what the Father is like.


P.S. Have you learned some things about the Father from your dad? Can you tell us what?

Or are you just now learning that the Father is different than the way your dad was to you? That He loves in a way your dad was not able to love?

DAD STORIES: memories of a man who got it right

(photo by Bethany Small)

Back when I was high school during the now-vintage era of the 70’s, computers were monstrous machines. They were housed in massive buildings, attended by men in white lab coats and thick glasses. No home computers, no laptops.

As students, we wrote our essays and term papers on typewriters— the electric kind if we were lucky.  Usually by hand first, then plucked out laboriously on the machine, slow and careful lest we hit the wrong key, leaving a permanent imprint on the perfect white paper.  Most teachers allowed no more than 3 errors per page.

My dad allowed no errors. A typo was a mistake. Why wouldn’t I aim for perfection?

Dad was not normally a tyrant, but he knew me well. Papers were my ticket to the grades he knew I could get but wouldn’t if I didn’t use my strengths. And tests were not my strength. My befuddled mind just wouldn’t grasp such unimportant details as dates— Was that signed in 1776? Or was it 1667?

But assign me to write a story about what life may have been like back whenever-it-was, and I’d bump those grades back up to where they belonged.

How many hormonal implosions did I unleash on poor dad when he red-marked my papers? And believe me, I could implode with the best of them! Drama and you-don’t-love-me and no-one-else’s-parents-torment-their-kids-like-this!

But nothing moved the man.  Instead, he calmly waited out the storm and told me, Good job, you’re getting it. Now do it again. 

And so I did. Until I got it right. Until it was good-grade worthy and I could hand it back to my dad to see his smile and that slightest nod that meant more than my name in lights.

Stretch back a few more years. We lived in Germany, in a small hamlet surrounded by fields and forests. A magical place. Dreamer that I was (and am) I remember all the wild and wonderful imaginings as I stared out my bedroom window at the castle one town away.

But on Saturdays I had to unstick my head from the clouds and do chores. Dusting, emptying garbage, wiping windows and cleaning the car— a tiny Opel sedan that carted our family of five all over Europe during the days we lived there.

Back then cars had windows that locked by pushing a small lever that looked like a golf ball tee. But when ten-year-old hands washed the inside of the Opel’s windows, that tee inevitably got in the way, leaving fingerprints unwiped. And Dad just marched me back to do it again. After all, he’d paid a whole dime for the job!

And do you know what? I still get in the corners. And I still proofread and correct over and over again, wanting to get it right, all the way right.

Because my dad taught me that details make the difference. Whether writing a paper or a book, or washing windows or making friends— details matter.

Was Dad picky? Yeah, a little.

Was Dad unreasonable? Never.

Did I respond well to his insistence on doing things well and right? Uh… hardly ever.

Am I glad he did? Absolutely! So very thankful that he instilled in me a sense of honor about work and pride in doing it well.

And do you know what? I really don’t think that Dad cared all that much about finger smudges on windows. I doubt he enjoyed reading my clunky papers about dinosaurs or the history of the printing press.

I think he just cared about me. He loved me enough to uproot my natural laziness and make me uncomfortable with less-than.

He wanted me to know the satisfaction of a job well done, of life done well.

And he was willing to do what he needed to until I got it right all on my own.

Thank-you Dad, I’m so glad you did.

From my heart,


Six Things My Dad Got Right:

  1. He had values of his own that he determined to instill in me.
  2. He was nice (mostly) about it.
  3. He didn’t let my whining and wailing cause him to slack off.
  4. He taught me to focus on my strengths.
  5. He told me what my strengths were— out loud and often.
  6. He kept at it even when his job demanded his attention.

P.S. Right now my dad is very, very ill. Would you pray with me for him? I leave in a few days to go to be with my parents at their home in the Sierras. Knowing you're praying would make all the difference to me. And if these Dad Stories have helped, will you leave a comment? It would bring me great  joy to bring him stories of how his own story is influencing yours.Thank you.

You can see previous DAD STORIES here.

DAD STORIES: memories of a man who got it right


The sun sleeps, tucked in tight, as I write these words, still too early on a winter’s morn to rise and melt the frost from the ground. In the dark my family slumbers on, wrapped in the downy warmth of dreams, serenely oblivious to the stresses that will rise with the dawn.

I am wide awake. Teapot half empty, my mind fills with rumblings of ideas. Words catch my listening ears in the stillness. Words from a Father who speaks in the silence.

I have always loved these earliest morning hours. On the rare times when I awake to others already awake, I feel the loss, the disappointment— as if I’ve missed the mystical magic of the morning.

And I know why…

Every morning when I was growing up, my dad got up first. Quietly, he’d patter down the stairs, plug in the coffee pot filled with Folgers the night before. While the perking and burbling filled the kitchen, scents drifted to my bedroom at the top of the stairs. And up he’d come.

Every morning.

“Di, it’s time to wake up.” He’d nudge my shoulder while I pretended to sleep. “Honey, wake up, it’s time…” the allure of sweetened coffee surrounding him like priceless perfume.

Eyes open now, my first glimpse of every day was him. My father: gentle, firm, kind, in control.

Every morning.

And I wake the same way still. Gently, sensing something, someone. Happy, ready, wanting to wake up, I rise as if my dad were hovering close with kind urgings to meet my day. A smile.

How many mornings have I sensed the Father’s breath on my face, His invitation to come, to meet Him before my world awakes? Just like my dad.

Come and be with Me.

And I do.

Far away, high in the mountains he loves, my dad is awake too. Wrapped in his plaid robe, slippers on, hair all ajumble. He’s got the coffee going, a light by his chair. He watches the sun rise, filling the silence with his own thoughts. Plans and hopes for the day ahead.

And I wonder, Dad, do you remember? A little girl, grown now, with wrinkles of her own. Did you know then that you were ushering me into the magic of the morning? Did you sense my need to be with you first? To share the quiet?

Or was it the Father of us both who knew? That one day I’d want these mornings with Him. That in the quiet I’d hear. That I’d need to get up early and He could make me want to by giving me a dad to love me this way.

My dad wasn’t perfect, of course not. But he made perfect mornings for me and he did it by just being himself… and by letting me be with him… and making me want to.

The sun is up now, the teapot empty. And I linger a while, my heart overflowing with memories of a childhood marked by joy. I wish, oh how I wish, that every child could say the same…

… and that alarm clocks would fade out of fashion… because of dad’s like mine.

From my heart,


5 Things My Dad Did Right:

  1. He knew my need for a gentle touch.
  2. He stayed the same, guaranteeing the security everyday sameness brings.
  3. He didn’t let the stresses of his job interfere with quiet mornings.
  4. He instilled in me the habit of preparing for the day ahead rather than flinging haphazardly into the fray.
  5. He showed me the way of the Father without saying a word.