I don’t remember the last time I saw my Daddy.
Quite possibly it was the last weekend of June 2014. Jon and I had gone up with his girls to visit my parents for a weekend.
On Saturday morning, the little village where my parents lived was having a 4th of July children’s parade. That evening, the church I grew up attending (and where my father still served as a deacon) was hosting a 100th anniversary celebration, complete with a fish fry, outdoor carnival games for the kids, and a fireworks show. On Sunday morning, there was a special church service followed by the elaborate potluck lunch, the very sort that Baptists do best.
It was a really wonderful weekend, spent telling stories and laughing and just enjoying being together. But all good things come to an end. So, on Sunday afternoon, with our hearts (and stomachs) full, Jon and the kids and I all hugged my parents’ necks before we began the journey back our Cajun Country home.
Perhaps that was the last time I saw my father. But I’m not at all sure.
You see, my children were still in Germany visiting with their father during the month of June. So they weren’t able to go with us to visit my parents that weekend. It seems likely that my parents would have wanted to visit with their world-traveling grandchildren upon their return to the states.
And that certainly could have easily happened. During the summer months, Mom and Dad often made trips to Texas to visit with my mother’s mother. Their habit was to swing through Lafayette for a short visit on their way home. As soon as their car pulled into our drive, I’d put on some coffee. We would visit (and dad would nap in the recliner) until it was time for them to get back on the road. Everyone in our family looked forward to these short, but frequent, visits.
Some of my kids are convinced that KayTee and Poppa visited us on at least one afternoon during July. However, others members of our family, like me, have no memory of such a visit.
But perhaps they did come for an afternoon cup of coffee. If so, that would have definitely been the last time I gave my father a hug.
What I can remember is the last time I didn’t see my father.
During the late summer months of 2014, Jon and I were gearing up to become fully certified foster parents. One of the many things we needed to do was get a baby/toddler bedroom set up. I had a toddler bed, but needed a crib. So I started looking around for someone wanting to sell (cheap) or give away a used crib.
Thankfully, a friend from back home had a crib that she offered to give to me. Since she lived near my parents, she took the crib to their house. My father agreed to work out a time to get the crib to us. However, he was busy and didn’t have time to bring the crib all the way to our house. So he asked us if we could meet him halfway, and exchange the crib on Labor Day. Jon and I agreed that this plan would work for us.
I don’t remember exactly how the details all played out now, but I do recall that only Jon and Joel went to meet my father and pick up the crib. For some reason, I stayed at home with the other kids.
What we did during on that lazy Monday, I can no longer remember. It’s likely there were other things I needed to do around the house, perhaps continuing to clean out the bedroom where the crib would be set up or maybe write lesson plans for our five children for the upcoming school week. It could have been that I planned to grocery shop. Chances are that whatever I did, it was a chore I felt was somewhat pressing.
I only know that I could have gone, but I chose not to go.
Of course, I had no way of knowing it would be my last opportunity to give my dad a hug, to see his happy smile, hear his cheerful laugh, or see his sparkly eyes. I could not have guessed he only had a little more than two weeks left to live. Certainly, had I known, I would have made a different choice.
Unfortunately, I can’t go back and remake that decision. Oh, I would if I could, but in this world the past can not be undone. Somehow we have to learn to live with our mistakes and choices while moving forward in life. If we don’t, we will stay stuck in a rut of misery… one that is mostly of our own making.
Over the past twelve months, I’ve thought quite a bit about that final opportunity, the chance I didn’t take and missed. I’ve shed more than a few tears over it, and many nights I’ve dreamed dreams about it. Over and over, I’ve questioned the Good Lord as to why He let me miss out on that one last chance to see my Daddy.
If you can’t tell, forgiving myself for not seeing my dad last Labor Day hasn’t been easy. Perhaps the silliest part (even to me) is the fact that my father wasn’t upset with me for sending only Jon and Joel to meet him that day. Deep in my heart, I know he wouldn’t be upset about that even today.
So why is it that am I so hard on myself?
Perhaps you have seen the movie Courageous. If so, you will recall the scene below:
When Sheriff’s deputy Adam Mitchell’s nine year old daughter, Emily, hears a song on the radio, she asks her father to dance with her. But he refuses because he is too embarrassed to be seen dancing in public. Days later, Emily is killed tragically by a drunk driver. Later in the movie, Adam goes back to same location where his daughter had asked him to dance with her … and there, by himself, he dances for Emily. It’s a tender moment as this father forgives himself for the missed moment to connect with his child.
In my grief, I long to know why my father died so suddenly, why he had to pass away on my birthday, why I missed the chance to see him one last time. The longing for answers to each of my why’s burns deep in my heart.
But the answers to those questions aren’t as important to God as other things. Over and over during the past year, God has gently reminded me that the mysteries of life are not always mine to know … not on this side of heaven and maybe not even on the other. Instead of knowing why, He just wants me to rest in the fact that He knows. The simple truth is that He is far more concerned about my complete trust in Him than He is in whether or not I understand all the reasons.
Today when I woke up, the first thing I thought about was the missed chance last Labor Day … and I felt in my soul the whisperings of the Holy Spirit saying softly, “It’s time, Paige … time to forgive yourself of the thing no one else holds against you.“
This verse came to mind:
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 3:13-14
I can’t keep hanging on to the past, beating myself up for a decision I now regret. What happened last year can’t be undone. All I can do is to look forward … and trust that God will take even the things I don’t understand and use them for my good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So on this Labor Day, I’m choosing to finally forgive the daughter who didn’t know she was choosing to miss out on the very last chance.
How about you? Do you find it harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others? Do you have decisions or actions in your past that you need to forgive yourself?