You are making December rough.
December. It’s the 10th anniversary of losing Dave’s dad to a heart attack. My dad. The man who was supposed to stand at the end of the aisle and put the hands of a future Mr and Mrs together and ask who gives this bride to his family. He didn’t live to see our wedding day. Or our three children. And on our last Thanksgiving together, he asked me to call him ‘dad’ and I did. He chuckled so loudly and said, “Let’s just stick with Mike.” And he kissed my cheek and we watched the Dog Show. He didn’t want the title. I am assuming because he hadn’t raised me. But he loved me. And he called me ‘his girl’ and ‘the girl I wanted for Dave’ and I will never forget the way his eyes sparkled when he smiled. I don’t question God about his death. And I know that he is actually alive. We will see him again. And our house is still filled with him, in conversations and tears and traditions and photographs. Graham calls him Papa Mike. He would have loved that title. Papa Mike. Grief isn’t winning.
And it is the 1st anniversary of when I lost my own father. In a completely different way. Because he is no longer in my life. Three decades completely turned upside down learning he was a fraud. A criminal. No longer even deserving a paternal title. When I must speak of him, I use the first initial of his name. All photographs are being quarantined. We were told not to delete or throw away anything, in case it is needed for a trial. Graham’s birthday card is missing an entire section. He used to ask why I ripped out Papa S******’s message. He no longer asks. Oh, December. You are really handing me more than I can handle with each passing year, but I will be brave. And grief will not win.
Bob. My father-in-law. My kids see Papa Bob at least twice a week. And have since their births. He doesn’t even like to hold babies, but he proudly cradled my three and told them he would teach them all kinds of ornery things. He carved Christmas ornaments for each of them every year until this year. This December, there are no carvings. In June, he had emergency neurosurgery. “Stage 4 brain cancer” were the words my brother-in-law uttered as we stepped off an elevator at a university hospital. We had driven back from my sister’s wedding on the East Coast. Traveling with three kids, we didn’t get there before the surgery. We arrived as he was waking up. I sat with my mother-in-law and she just held Elizabeth and sobbed. Babies have a way of making these things easier. And after rehab facilities and hospital stays, he is home for Christmas. A hospital bed surrounded by his Christmas carvings, a tree, and the people he loves. Grief can’t win, because we are rejoicing this December. We just need a few more days, God. A Christmas with his family. He told me weeks ago that he just wanted Christmas at home. He is more than a dad-in-law to me. He is the only dad I have left. And I am torn everyday between getting to see him hold my kids one more time with the little strength he has left or releasing him to Jesus for a new body. I am in the surreal place of both. Grateful for what we have, but preparing myself for the call. The same call I got ten years ago saying Mike was gone.
December can be hard and scary and fatherless. But December is also the best time to remember that we are never actually Fatherless. Not when we have God. And Christmastime allows me to snuggle up into Abba’s lap and thank him for a December full of flesh-wrapped holiness and feed-trough birth. That his titles never change. He is somehow Father and Son and Holy Spirt. But the title of Father is what I need most this December.
So, grief, you have your place. But my Father in Heaven is preeminent and outside of all time and tells me that December is just another month. I choose to embrace all the light-filled moments of December as a baby born to die drives out the darkness in my past, present, and future. I know it’s true, because my Father tells me so.
“He is a father to the fatherless.” Psalm 68: 5
Linking up with Letters to Grief.