I was not an easy daughter to raise, strong willed and challenging authority early on. Constantly questioning why this, why that. Couldn’t sit still during story time and never…ever…was quiet. While other little girls were taking dance lessons and sleeping in pink canopy beds, I was skinning knees and breaking stuff.
But somehow, I could talk my dad out of (most) discipline with “I’m sorry, Daddy. You know I love you the most in the world.” His heart would break wide open every time.
As I grew up and began dating, Dad tried to be objective about the guys who came in and out of my life. Not that they were bad guys (well, most of them weren’t), but he always made me think.
“A guy who loves himself that much has no love left to give God or you.”
“You are in church more than him. Odds are that won’t change.”
“He’s a show off and trying to impress you. How does he treat you when he’s not buying you stuff?”
“If you settle for less in a husband, everything else in life will be less than it could have been.”
Nobody is perfect, I would argue, as that stubborn streak from childhood continued through the teenage years. There would be more than one fight and bad decision on my part. But, as much as I hated being wrong, Dad always ended up being right.
I dated more through college, then career. Grown up and matured in my thinking, I knew what I wanted out of life. All those years of listening to Dad finally made a difference. I was strong, resolved to trust God to bring the right man into my life.
And God did. I just didn’t think I would gain one and lose the other.
Cancer. The diagnosis came out of nowhere for my dad, and for months he fought hard. Aggressive chemo and radiation were done, so one weekend I took a break from trips back home to care for him.
And it was that weekend, I met this guy. Tall, good looking, and wearing the coolest running shoes ever. He smiled. We talked. He asked me out. And somehow I knew he just might be “the one”.
Four days later Dad got the news. The cancer had spread to the liver and was quickly invading his lymphatic system. Three weeks to live.
Before I left to be with my family, I went on the first date with this new guy. And ugly cried the whole time. Most young men couldn’t have handled that much emotion. But at the end of the evening, he hugged me. Said he really liked me. And said when the time was right in weeks to come, we could do this again. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Life was soon a blur. Hospitals. Sleepless nights. Caregiving. But Dad’s mind stayed sharp, allowing for one last gift of a conversation.
Just days before he died, I was sitting by his bedside. Holding his frail hand, I whispered, “Daddy, I’ve met someone. His name is Jim, and I think you would really like him.”
Dad looked up, tears in his tired, hollow eyes. He grinned and squeezed my hand.
“I know, Beth. I just know. It’s my last answered prayer on this earth. I have to go soon, but without ever meeting him, I know I am leaving you in good hands. God promised me that.”
And, so on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning, Dad’s eyes lit up as he lifted both arms toward heaven. One last deep breath and he was gone. And his little girl grieved hard. But in the months ahead, there was healing and hope and a future.
A future that guy in the cool running shoes walked into with me. Laughs some days. Tears on others. But that early grief strengthened, bonded us as a couple.
And through good and bad times, he’s now walked by my side for twenty-five years of marriage.
And I just know Dad and Jim would have been the best of friends.