A man I know from church recently lost his father. I don’t know this man well and I never met his father. We are friends on Facebook though and so, as things go with social media, I’ve learned something about his life that is more intimate than our friendship would dictate is appropriate. His father was young and died rather suddenly from a heart attack. My heart broke for this man and his family and so I prayed. I prayed to God that He would provide peace and strength and endurance and hope and love to him and his family. I prayed that God would make His presence abundantly clear and perceptible as they mourn the loss of their dad.
As I prayed God shifted my heart. I began to think about my dad and Hannah’s dad and all of the other dads I’ve known in my lifetime. I began to think about how much, or how little, I pray for each of them.
Hannah’s dad is a thorn in my side (and he would say the same about me). We have different values and the space we each occupy is difficult to navigate. But, he loves our daughter. It was a long, hard road for him to get where he is (babies aren’t really his thing) but we are here. Our daughter is nine and he almost always has his weekday dinner date with Hannah. Every other weekend he picks her up and brings her home to his house. He and his fiancé have made room for her in their home and always make sure she feels welcome and included in their family. What more could a momma heart ask for her daughter? Hannah has her dad and his fiancé and her sisters. She has so much love in her life and I am so very grateful.
There’s Frank. My foster dad from my last foster home. He works hard to make an income and provide for his family. A typical working class white man dedicated to his family, fond of beautiful glass pieces, and struggling with the declining health of his back.
And then there’s my dad. The man who gave me my name. Kosakowski. He hasn’t been around for much of my life. We talk to each other about twice a year — he calls me on my birthday and I call him on his. Every year I ask if he’ll come for a visit, meet my daughter. Hannah loves him and his wife. She speaks fondly of her Opa and Oma — two people she’s never met but she knows they are family and so she loves them. And she knows they love her too. That’s what family is — a group of connected people that love one another even when they cannot see each other or be together. People that care and love and forgive and always, always accept each other, even when they are not present in the day-to-day of life.
This year I didn’t wait until my dad’s February birthday. I called him today and I asked him to visit.
“Maybe. Maybe in the summer. The winter is too cold.”
It’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to a yes from him. Massachusetts is so much more than too cold and we both understand what is not being said. That is one thing I appreciate about him — I know he won’t say yes unless he means it. It can still hurt a girl’s heart though. I think he sensed my hurt on the phone today.
“I should call more,” he said. “It’s not your fault you know, it’s mine. I’m a procrastinator.”
My eyes watered as I walked through the hall at MIT. I know Daddy, I know. My voice choked up, “I’m the same way. I think I get it from you.”
And then a joke from my dad to break the tension, to ease the sadness. The silly, punny kind that I love, “You know, they have a procrastinators club. Someday I’ll get around to joining.”
I love you daddy. I miss you so much. There’s a spot in my heart that only you can fill.
But I have another Father too. This one I have never seen but He knows me completely and He loves me fully. Every day we meet and talk. I tell Him all about my day and my thoughts and feelings. There is nothing about me that He doesn’t know. Every day He accepts me and loves me and invites me into an evermore intimate relationship with Him. He has a Book that is full of stories of people just like me. People that utterly failed at life and yet, He loved them. I am so grateful for this Father, the one person that never gave up on me and never had to show up because He was always already there. Fatherhood is a gift from God that is meant to emulate the way God loves us, His children. Where human fathers fail or don’t measure up, God will always, always, overcome the difference.
And so, I will continue to pray. I will pray for the man from his church while he mourns the loss of his dad. I will pray for his family as they remember their dad. I will pray for Hannah and her dad and for their relationship to continue to flourish. I will pray for Frank and his health and family. And, I will pray for my dad and our relationship. A girl needs her daddy. And through it all my Father will continue to work on my heart and love me.
Edit: After I wrote this I saw this amazing video of Ellen talking about her dad and his passing. Sometimes Dad gives us a rainbow.