Today is my dad’s birthday.
Today would have been my dad’s birthday.
Today I would have called him, and we would have talked. Not long— between his deafness and mine we would have strained to hear each other. Despite all that, he wanted to hear me, to connect, to be part of my life— and so he would have asked me to talk slower, to say it again.
My dad would have asked about me and about my book, then about my kids and what they’re doing. Because that is what my dad did, he listened, wanting to know about me— wanting to know me, to share in what mattered to me.
I would have told him that my book is finished and it’s more than I thought I could write. That I run my hands over the cover of my pre-release copy and can’t help but cry. If I was feeling really brave I would have told him that people I care about read it and wrote such soul-thrilling reviews that I barely recognized myself in their words. He would have told me he’s proud of me, that he knew all along that I had it in me.
I would have changed the subject then because of the tears threatening to burst like a dam, flooding me with more loved-ness than I know how to contain. To have a dad who believed in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself is the greatest treasure.
I would have told my dad that my kids are thriving and they’re more than I dared think they would be. He would have asked why. I would have stumbled over words in reply: how can I construct a frame of words around this family I get to be part of?
I would have told Dad about John Mark and the way he has become a man I admire, how I love the way he thinks and writes and preaches. But even more, how my firstborn son chooses, everyday to follow Jesus fearlessly and love people purposefully. I'm sure he would have read John Mark's book by now and he would have loved it! My dad was all about work and calling and setting out every day to make a difference.
I would have told him about Matthew, the baby— now a man. About how he claims he has the best job in the world. We would have laughed together, my dad and I. Two overly serious introverts chuckling over my son, his grandson— and his love for middle-schoolers and late night kid-parties and Jesus.
I would have told him that Elizabeth is glowing and growing with his seventh great grandchild growing in her belly. That she is creating beauty in her corner of ugly, dirty east L.A.
Then I would have told him about our Bekah and he would have been smiling. That little one who tried her best to boss him around when he was building a swing just for her. And now she runs a business, using all that charm and drive to make it work. I would have told him that she is on her way to Japan, a country he loved. I would have told him that her husband cherishes the tools he passed on before he left us. He would have loved that.
Gosh I miss him. I miss the way he loved me— us— so quietly and so well.
And even as I ache with the loss of my dad, I hurt for those who will never mourn for what they didn’t have. All those little girls, now women, who didn’t have a dad to cherish them like my dad cherished me. And all those little boys, now men, whose dads didn’t know them as my dad knew my sons.
And all day I will be watching, hoping, waiting for that Someday when every little girl and every grown woman and every boy and every man will know the love of the Father. That Day when there will be no more tears, no more mourning, no more fear or loneliness or sadness or not-enoughness. All because of Him.
That is why this day brings joy through my tears, why I celebrate the day my dad was born— because my dad showed me the Father.
From a heart longing for everyone to know what it feels like to be loved and known,
P.S. If you ache to know what it is like to be so loved, will you let me know who you are and how I can pray? Because I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my dad’s birthday than to pray for those who have not known the kind of love I lost.