Love ’em if you got ’em

Tomorrow will mark the 2nd Father’s Day my family will experience without my dad.  If you’ve lost a parent you understand the pain.  If you’ve not this message is really for you.

I was fortunate in my household to have grown up with a very expressive family- perhaps too expressive at times.  There was never a shortage of discussion in the Elder household- whether it was about church, life, boys, God, school, friends just whatever.  Jess and I grew up having open lines of communication with our parents from the time we could speak.  We were always encouraged to express ourselves (a life lesson I often wonder if my mother regrets having trained me in SO well!).  I never had to wonder how my parents felt about me.  “I love you” was a common phrase used in our house.  I’m not trying to paint an unrealistic picture of a fairytale existence, but the truth is we all  liked each other and even though we had our squabbles at times they were usually short-lived.

This Sunday, just as it is most other days, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to have the opportunity to see  my father just one more time.  I would give all the earthly possessions that I have for even just 15 minutes of sitting in his presence, holding his hand, hugging his sweet neck, hearing his voice say “Mandy” or “Manda” to me, and getting to be with him.  I miss my dad like I never knew I was capable of missing someone.  It’s an ache that comes from a deep place inside and never truly goes away.  I’m not even sure it fades.  I think I just chose to tune it out during the times when it is too hard to take.  It’s an enduring absence that never lessens.

Most of you know, but some may not, that during his sickness my father was at home.  It was his wish and my mother fulfilled it perfectly, beautifully, unselfishly, and without complaint.  The importance of that for our family was two-fold.  First, my dad’s final wish was being honored.  How could any of us not honor this man who had shown such honor for us as husband and father?  Second, we were able to see him all the time.  The night he died we stood at his bedside, and whereas in the movies a family will gather around and have the opportunity to say final words and things they’d never had a chance to say before, for our family it was simply a restating of the words and love we had for him every day.  Mom, Jess, and I all got to thank him.  We all told him how proud we were of him and what an amazing job he had been as provider, leader, and spiritual covering he had been for all of us.  I will forever be thankful for those moments.  Hard as they were to go through they were as perfect as we could have ever hoped for.

I guess what I’d like to express in this blog is this one simple thought- while you still have your family, your parents, your siblings…. love them.  Tell them that you love them.  When we are able to step out of ourselves for a moment and really, really take a hard look at the big picture it’s amazing how the problems and quarrels that we felt were “so big” will simply fall away like ashes from a burning paper.  People fuss.  We disagree.  We hurt one another whether intentionally or accidentally, and we all could benefit from growing up and learning to be more forgiving and more thoughtful.  If you have your loved ones this holiday, or this Sunday, or any day this month please don’t take it for granted.  Things can change in an instant.  I promise you.  Hug your dad tomorrow.  Kiss his face and tell him you love him.  In doing that simple and important action you’ll have the opportunity to do something that I’ll never again be able to do in this lifetime.  Don’t miss the opportunity.

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