"Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes."
I rummaged through my collection of old photos, hoping to find pictures of me with my dad. I ended my search frustrated. Dad had always been the one behind the camera, eager to capture the memories. With the exception of one polaroid shot, I was left empty-handed.
When I saw my sister's post on Facebook, I wrestled with conflicting emotions. There she was, arm in arm with our dad, both clothed in wedding attire and radiating joy. He had been there to walk her down the aisle, and he lived to meet her children. I was happy for her memories, but felt cheated at the same time.
"When does the sadness go away? When will I be able to experience days like Father's Day without a lump in my throat?" I asked my counselor years ago.
"Never. There will always be a melancholy undercurrent. Especially given the tragic way he died."
It wasn't what I wanted to hear. Never? I did not want to carry this cloak of grief the rest of my life.
"It will get better," she encouraged me. "Some years, you may not even notice it that much. And good things will spring up from this, if you let them. You'll develop compassion and strength you wouldn't have known otherwise. And appreciation for the people who still occupy your life."
Yesterday was Father's Day. I wanted to celebrate my husband, and the many ways he has poured his life and love into our family. When I asked him how he wanted to spend his special day, I was taken back by his response. "I hate Father's Day. I'd rather not do anything."
"Why? You still have your dad. And a family who wants to honor you." I wondered if it had anything to do with our newly married daughter, and the fact that she'll soon be moving to another state. I know his heart, and how much he's going to miss her. Though we are fortunate to have our three sons closeby, there's just something unique about fathers and their daughters.
"It's because of your dad. And the pain it causes you every year," was his unexpected reply.
I was stunned by his words. I had no idea the impact my own grief was having on him, too. "We need to change our perspective. We are blessed with so many loved ones. We need to make them our focus. Let's enjoy them while we can. Life is too short and unpredictable."
And that is how we spent our Father's Day. Honoring his dad, and my stepdad. Savoring the time with our kids. Swelling with gratitute for our grandkids who have enlarged our hearts in ways we couldn't imagine. And yes, even honoring the man I called Dad. How good it felt to put aside the garment of sorrow and celebrate him too, photos or no photos.