This Father’s Day marks the second year we “celebrate” this now dreaded holiday since holding his hand for the last time this side of heaven. Our hearts ache for his hugs, the only comfort from the storm that raged in our lives his last six months with us. Life without their Dad has left a gaping hole in the hearts of our teenage boys. The ones who called him “coach” from peewee sports through junior high football and lacrosse. They earned their blackbelts together and lived life to the fullest together, until cancer reared its ugly head and forever altered the direction of our life’s path.
But he is not gone. Even though our tears still flow, and few moments pass when he’s not on our minds, longing for the time we mistakingly thought we had to watch our dreams come to pass, he is far from gone. For his love lives forever in our hearts.
But oh, do we miss him. More than words can say. His contagious laughter. His eyes that smiled when he found joy. His positive outlook on life. Always the laid back voice of reason, the one to say no matter how bad a situation appeared in the moment, somehow it would be OK. And even though we may not see it now, my hope is that he’s right.
Even when cancer stole half his physical body, he was still the most beautiful man I ever met. Our souls were connected when we met at the steakhouse where we worked while in college. He never met a stranger who didn’t quickly become a friend, and since many of our female coworkers had crushes, I told him we could only be friends. That only lasted a short while, and after only 3 months of dating, he got down on one knee in a crowded restaurant and proposed. On Valentine’s Day. The same day his dad proposed to his mom decades earlier, as well as his grandad to his grandmother decades before that. He was a man of family tradition. Family was his life.
It didn’t matter to him he was the only adopted son of his parents who struggled with infertility after his mother had a health scare. They chose him, and gave him the happiest blessed life that a sunny California seaside town had to offer. Days of surfing the waves and racing motor cross through the rolling hills were only two of his hobbies he hoped to pass onto our boys when we relocated from Washington state only months before his cancer diagnosis. Those dreams still lie dormant in the hearts of our boys, and sometimes the thoughts of what will never be is still too much to bare.
I hope in heaven he believes all the good others saw that he never could. The joy of purpose he found in fatherhood shined brighter than any star in the darkest sky of the highest mountaintop. He embraced being a Dad with such admiration, even his childhood friends at his celebration of life said they were beyond inspired and a bit ashamed in comparison of all the sacrifices he made for his boys. To him they weren’t sacrifices at all. Being a Dad was without a doubt the biggest honor he ever held. He volunteered as their elementary school mascot, and before resigning due to his illness, had recently been voted in as their high school football booster club president. I used to get angry when I’d come home after a long day at work and find him rough housing with the boys amongst piles of unfolded laundry while dirty dishes overflowed the sink. If only I realized then, he was the one who knew what mattered most.
I struggle in keeping an eternal mindset of being forever reunited in heaven with the daily demands of life without him. Fear of loneliness, regret and wishing we could turn back time overpowers my mind in weaker moments. But the Lord in His strength somehow gets me through to the next day. And I am closer to Him now than I’ve ever been before. Walking through the valley of death with the only man who occupied my heart for almost two decades only became possible through a strength greater than myself.
Then there’s our boys. What amazing blessings are they? The ones mentioned in his legacy book who taught him what it is to love. Time will only tell the impact his loss will have on their lives. But how can we not give thanks to Jesus, in His infinite wisdom that surpasses our understanding, for bringing angels to help us along this difficult path? From our counselor who was with us on his last day, and still walks beside us through the challenges, to our friends and family who continue to show up even on the tough days, we have many reasons to feel the blessings through the pain.
I hope in heaven he sees us, and knows our hearts are still one because of the love we share. I hope with every milestone of our boys’ lives we sense his pride for all they accomplish. I hope with future business or personal endeavors I make him proud. And we know the right paths as guiding lights of heaven detour us from darkness. I hope he knows that on this Father’s Day and every one to come, without a doubt our boys still cherish the best Dad anyone could ever hope for.
It’s hard to wrap our minds around decades without him beside us. But in our faith we know eternity will bring a long awaited reunion that on some days can’t come soon enough. He loved us until his last breath. The one he took soon after confirming to our boys he saw Jesus. Perhaps the reason he kept reaching for the ceiling in the corner of the ICU. Giving hope and assurance there’s more than just this life that’s sometimes filled with so much sorrow and loss.
The best legacy besides being an amazing father a man can ever leave.