How do you celebrate your father for father’s day? How can we celebrate our fathers who have passed away? How can we look to father’s day and feel joyful or excited? I can only answer this question for myself, and hopefully for anyone else that’s grieving. My father’s day is different now – different because it causes me to reflect more on memories.
It’s a challenge for me to sit here and not write a novel about my father because I could. See my father and I are best friends. I was born to be a daddy’s girl. I spent my childhood holding his hand after school and looking for him in the sea of parents at the after school pick-up lines. As a child when I was afraid, I spent most of my nights lying in bed between him and my mother. To be honest, some nights I wasn’t even afraid. I just wanted to be between them protected, covered and safe. Whenever there was a storm and lightning would wake me, I got out of the bed I shared with my sister and immediately ran to my parents. My father was the lightest sleeper on earth. You could cough in the room next door and he would hear you, get out of his bed and come check on you. My mom? She could sleep through a hurricane. But all of those nights that I crawled into bed with them, my dad always woke up and pulled me towards him.
My father dropped me off and picked me up from school religiously. From elementary, middle and high school. He would be waiting outside of the school at least 30 minutes before it ended. He always parked on the side of the road and leaned against the car with his cheetah print sunglasses. Where did my dad get those glasses?! I wish I knew. God I hated those sunglasses so much!! He would cross his arms over his chest and just wait and wait for me.
See my father had the patience of a saint. He spent his life waiting on his children and his wife. Honestly, he spent his life serving. Serving his wife, his kids and his church. My dad was really quiet but what he spoke most about was God, his family and soccer. Looking back now, my faith really grew from his faith. It grew watching a man become so sick that I could barely recognize him, but on his deathbed he praised God. I spent my life loving my father and telling him I loved him and he always said, “God first, mom second and me third.” He never wanted to be on the top of my list, but he made his way there anyway.
My father left me a few voicemails during the span of his cancer diagnosis, chemo and multiple hospital visits. In one of his many October of 2014 voicemails he says, “Mama I haven’t heard from you, I just called to hear you little one. You know Papi loves you? You know dad loves you right? You know that? Papi, Mami, we all love you in the name of the Lord. Papi is good you know, I’m good. I didn’t want to tell you I was in the hospital but maybe I’ll be out by Wednesday. It’s just water. My feet and stomach were swollen with water. I had trouble breathing but I’m good but Papi is good… everything looks good so far. Everything’s going to be good in the name of the Lord.” What I love most about my father is that in the midst of all of his problems, in the midst of all of his pain, he was always doing just fine. To him everything was well with his soul. This hand he had been dealt was well with him and that say’s a lot about his faith and walk with Christ.
My father was the first man I ever loved. And I know how fortunate I am to have had that. But here’s the thing, I can still celebrate father’s day. For a while that was hard for me to realize but I celebrate a man who loved and lived life as best as he could. I celebrate a man who praised God even in his suffering. I celebrate a man whose last breathing words were, “Hallelujah.” I celebrate a man who always called me from his hospital bed to say, “Papi’s fine. Don’t worry about me.” I celebrate the man who taught me how to ride a bike, how to drive a car, but most importantly taught me how to love. He taught me how to love others and through him I grew in my faith. Because he had faith.
If you knew my father, he was very small. He didn’t have muscles; he was a pretty skinny guy with a bright smile. He didn’t look like he was made of strength physically but he was strong. He didn’t have a strong heart physically but his heart was big and full of love.
So for me, I celebrate being loved by him. Being fortunate to have been raised by him. I’m fortunate to be his daughter and carry his last name. I celebrate having known him and being taught by him. I celebrate how he loved my mother and how he loved others.
At my father’s funeral, there wasn’t an empty seat in the church. I look back at that day and feel loved. I feel fortunate to have stood in a church where hundreds gathered to remember the man he was. I feel fortunate to have stood up there and been known as his child. I feel fortunate to have witnessed what it’s like to have lived on this earth as a father, a husband, a brother, a grandfather, an uncle, a friend and be loved by so many people until the end.
Georges, I feel honored to be your daughter.
Happy Father’s Day.