Despite being a predictable yearly event, Father's Day tends to sneak up on me every June. AS I study the calendar, there's usually a resounding, "Oh.. that's THIS WEEK??", followed by a flurry of preparations to celebrate my husband.
I'm happy to put in this effort, but in the midst of the gift selection and the search for the perfect card, there is always a moment. A twinge. A pang. It's brief, but it's a soft shadow that dissipates slowly.
For six years now, there's been one less gift to select, and one less card to buy. After my father's death, Father's Day became yet another day of lost moments in what seems like an endless chain of them. The sting of the immense hurt has eased slightly with time for me. But for several families that I care about, this will be the first Father's Day without their dads. And while no one wants to be a member of the Dead Dad club, if you've gone through it, you GET IT.
No matter how old you are, or how "adult" you're supposed to be, losing your father is a gut-wrenching experience. Loss can come in many forms, of course. Some people mourn the loss of a relationship with a father they never knew. Some carry hurt from the emotional distance of a less-than-ideal relationship, or, worse yet, an abusive one.
But for those who were fortunate enough to have a good, healthy relationship with their father, the death of your father is a pain that cannot be articulated. While the immediate devastation is obvious and acute, it's in the gradual aftermath that the heart begins to ache, hard.
Like when life becomes your new normal, you come to realize that you can't call your father and tell him a corny story only he would "get". Life becomes full of days like that, and it's the surprise of how much it hurts that stuns you as the finality beings to set in.
Or it's the day when you need him to fill your car's tire with air, because even though he taught you a million times how to do it, he does it best.
Or the days you remember how, unlike your mother who did it all, your dad was the quiet, unsung hero in the background.
Or the days when you miss the inside stories, the hugs, the way he taught you to throw a softball, the songs that only you and he seemed to love, the ways that he made you laugh when your mom seemed to be taking life WAY too seriously (though I get it now, moms.)
Days like Father's Day.
The most surreal experience after losing my father was, in fact, shopping for Father's Day cards for my husband the first year after my father's death. As I browsed the card selection, it hit me like an electric jolt; I would no longer need to purchase a card for my own father. Ever. And I literally lost my breath as the reality of that forever loss hit me, right there in the store.
If you've lost father, then you know. You have the memories of the past with him that can bring comfort, but it's the loss of the future memories that cuts deeply and hit home on days like Father's Day. It's the loss of what could have been, in terms of future experiences and moments with you and your own growing family.
If you have that ache from missing your dad this Father's Day, chances are that you were lucky enough to be raised with a decent father that loved you enough to leave that mark. Your love for him is still so massive and unfinished and messy in the tangle of emotions that surround a day that was always for him.
And though you'd do anything to buy him the best gift money could buy if you had one more chance, you know in your heart that he'd be just as happy with the old soap-on-a-rope gift. Because he loved you.
So on this Father's Day, celebrate the fathers that you know that are fighting the good fight, and making memories with their children. While we can't change the fact that we've lost a dad we love, we can help to encourage other dads to be just as meaningful & loved in their own children's eyes.