I changed my cover photo on Facebook this past week, pulling down the beautiful Christmas scene that showed Jesus in the manger as a light on a dark night, and replacing it with this:
Notice the hands, especially, my daughter’s tiny fingers grasping my father’s large hand, and her soft cheeks contrasting Dad’s older skin, worn and wise. This is such a precious moment. There are many photos of Dad with our children, but this one delights me so much because it epitomizes how he was with our kids, down on the floor, making silly noises, interacting with them, celebrating them up close and personal.
To me, this was Dad saying, “You matter. You are tiny but you are important. See me? I see you!”
I loved that. I miss that. It’s been two years since he died and he grows more special to me every day. I feel him near often, especially around this time of year near the anniversary of his death, which was yesterday. I feel his loving, paternal presence. I pray for him, and trust that he is praying for us, too, nudging our family in the ways he can from the other side of the veil, hoping we’ll keep looking up, keep pointing ourselves toward the path that will bring us all together again someday.
In reflecting on his life this past week, especially in looking at this image, a major theme stood out and made me feel an abundance of gratitude. It was the way my father welcomed his grandchildren into the world.
My father didn’t have a lot to offer in terms of worldly things. Toward the end of his life, his work productivity was not much. He’d let go of his beautiful gift of writing and lived a very simple life with my mother, focusing mainly on just living each day and keeping up with his favorite team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
But what he did offer in great supplies was unconditional love. Even when he couldn’t do much physically to love us, he always let me know that I was loved, and that my children were a gift. As our family grew, and some in our lives grew concerned our family size was going to tip the world’s population off balance, my father didn’t so much as pause at the announcement of a new grandchild. To him, it was always a blessing to hear news of another soul coming into the world. He was my favorite person to call with the news that another baby had come into being.
Looking at old photos especially, I see traces of my children in him, and it makes me smile.
In a world that isn’t necessarily open to new life, I cannot tell you how relieved I would feel after sharing pregnancy news with my father. Can there be any greater gift to one who has just learned of a new life within, knowing those in your life see the development as nothing but pure blessing? His reaction toward life stands out so strongly now, and I cannot thank my father enough for reminding me that even though life would involve sacrifice, it was always, unequivocally, a hopeful thing.
I’m sure this had to do with the fact that my father was the youngest boy in a family of nine kids growing up during the Great Depression (he’s bottom right, with his sweet mama’s arm on his shoulder). He knew that other considerations besides financial go into approaching new life.
I thanked him the day he died for this precious gift, and I will never stop being grateful for the best gift my father could have given me. Thank you, Daddy, for being so welcoming to all of us, not because of anything we had done but just because we are. That says so much about your good heart and I hope you know now how very good it really was and is.
I will be retiring this photo of the two of us as my blog banner soon, so I wanted to highlight it again here before it slips away for a while. I’ve kept it, unchanged, since Dad’s death two years ago and it has brought me much peace.
Q4U: What gift did a loved one of yours who has passed on leave you?