It’s never just another day

For many people, August 18 is just another day on the calendar. It might be a loved ones birthday or anniversary. This year, it may happen to be a first day of school or a doctors appointment or lunch with a friend.

For me, every year August 18 is the anniversary of the day my dad passed away. Today begins the second decade of August 18’s on my calendar.

It’s hard to believe its been 20 years since I saw my dad’s face, heard him laugh or saw him smile. Twenty years since I smelled his favorite cigar. Many recoil at the scent or suggestion, but it is one that is sewn into me and I have been brought to tears at a fleeting note of it, knowing how rarely I might catch it in passing.

Tonight, I wonder what he would think of this crazy thing called “the internet”. I wonder if he would be more of Mac or PC guy or if he would have a computer at all. I think he would go crazy over the fact that a car can actually parallel park itself and a phone could fit in his pocket without a cord attached to the wall. So much has happened in twenty years that he would have loved.

I consider what he would have been like as a grandpa: Would he sing those silly songs in Dutch and dance and sing all around? Would he sit on the floor playing games and beam with joy just to be around them? Would he infuse the Dutch culture into them.

I wonder if when he looked at my daughters, he would see me as a child. Would it cause him to do things different, as if he had a second chance at fatherhood via grandfatherhood. Would it have changed him?

We’ve been learning a tremendous lot about heaven this year. The Bible is full of promises and clearly speaks of what lies ahead for us there as believers and those who have gone before us. As comforting and exciting as all of this is to learn and know, I find myself sidelined by the heartache of wondering In his heart of hearts, was my dad a believer?

As a ten year old, I didn’t exactly have the moxy to ask him where he stood in his relationship with the Lord. I knew when he wasn’t acting right and feared smelling the liquor on his breath and confirming what I suspected. I hated Sunday mornings knowing I would have to try for a couple hours to wake him up to get there on time, only for him to fall asleep hungover during the service. I remember feeling proud the Sunday’s he stayed awake.

What was so sad about his life that he had to drink like that? What was so devastating that he could not escape except to put a bottle to his mouth? But most heartwrenching for me, why was there no one who could show him the Jesus I know? The Jesus that could heal his hurting heart and speak to him as only Jesus could. Why did he not get it enough to be changed?

He had a life that few people can say they shared. His first breath of air was that of a Prisoner of War camp in Indonesia. A joyous moment in an unthinkable place. Years of his childhood were spent there. Like all of us in our own individual passage, life is hard. But what about the “God is good” part?

I guess I mourn the fact that I don’t see where God got the glory for the things He did in his life. Even when we process things at different speeds, nothing happens in life where we can’t reflect Him. I want that bit of good news to mark my dad’s life. And I don’t see it. It is an unchangeable part of my experience.

Sometimes I get stuck on the thought that I was not reason enough for him to sober up. But maybe the redemptive part of those feelings, is that it hurts enough that I could not do that to my own children. Maybe that’s the good news. And that is how that chain of sin is to be broken.

I can boldly declare the goodness of God. How He provides comfort when I miss my dad. How He intervenes in our thought processes and heartache and more personally, how He has corrected my perspective of what a Father is. He gets it when no else can. He breaks chains and gives hope for a future. He equipped my mom to fill both parental roles and surrounded her with godly supportive people. God is SO good.

This morning, I was reading in Job 38 & 39 where the Lord confronted Job. He laid out the details of a wide variety of things and said, essentially, “Who do you think does all this? … I do.” God is a multi-tasker. He is at work in everything.

As I work up the courage to really consider those memories, the glossy beautiful ones and the ones I can’t wish away, the Lord is faithful to teach me more about myself and give new insights into my dreams for my own family. That’s how I know He is at work, even 20 years later, through the life of my dad. Other people had different experiences with him. Mine was a child’s perspective where the highs and lows are mostly the ones the stick. But they aren’t wasted.

Hope lives on. It lives in the eyes of my children. They may bear some physical resemblance to my dad but even now at a young age, so much of the heart of our Heavenly Father. I have to think that would please my dad. I’d like to think he’d be proud of us. And i hope everyday that someday, I’ll be able to hear it from him myself.


~ by hthr on August 18, 2010.

11 Responses to “It’s never just another day”

  1. Tears and hugs. Thank you for sharing your story!!!

  2. You blow me away with how open & beautifully you share yourself.

  3. Wow, Heather. Thanks for sharing this. I did not know this about you… I think you and Troy were going through similar situations about this time in your lives…

    Thanks for sharing a little piece of your heart.


  4. I’m almost speechless. Your processing is so good to hear and catch a glimpse of. I think some of God getting the glory is through your life, your story, this post as you are a legacy of your Dad’s life and your Dad’s story. I’d bed he’d be blown away by this post on this crazy thing called the internet. And if he was a PC guy, I’m sure you’d straighten him out. 😉

  5. *bet

  6. Heather:
    My Daughter Tammy made me aware of your post, I am quite taken away by your heart and writing of your Dad and that time that has gone by. It hit me on Saturday that I thought of Him, as if my sould was pricked that day by Him. I think you’ve done a beautiful job and skill at explaining your pain and loss of Him. Your Dad was a brother I loved a lot, he was at my house with Rodger the day it happended. I still have to deal with the Hour that the Hospital had to tell Uncle Hans and Me, (uncle Max) that there was nothing more they could do. I had to sign off on the paperwork to take him off the Breathing machine. I know this, He loved You and Rodger deeply, yes he had internal conflict, by he loved you Both and did his best to support you and be with you. He would have been proud of his kids at what they have achieved and the Kids that you have raised, I have looked at your pictures on your blog quite a bit. Next time your in our area, call me on my cell or at home. I’ll have it on my email for you Love Uncle Max

  7. You are so smart and so brave for processing this part of yourself so openly! Thank you! This is how The Body works. Heather, I am certainly not wise enough to provide any insight that you do not already have. But I do have thoughts on your questions. “Why did he not get it enough to be changed?
    “…this is a question I think many believers would identify with personally. Surely, a saved life is a changed life. Is that always manifested in the same way? We all are broken in some way, I think. To lean on our savior is the wise thing for us to do. So why do we sometimes lean on the familiar; the vices we’ve attached ourselves to, even though we know better? This is part of the struggle. We fall…we come back to the cross…we are redeemed. I can’t help but have confidence in your dad’s redemption. I’m sure the uncles can speak to that. I proudly named my first born after him. You & your family are living proof that your dad’s story did not end with his life on earth. Nor did God’s impact on the lives of others through him. Finally, let there be no question: he would sing the silly Dutch songs and shamelessly dance around like a goofball. Love, Scot

    • Ahh, Scot, you have made me laugh through my tears. Thank you, thank you, many times over, and especially the insight you have shared. I appreciate it more than you know. Love, hthr

  8. As you know internet posting is not private, it is online for everyone and anyone to see. How very sad the long posting from your memories as a young child, no doubt coupled with therapist or non-family input /interpretations of such “memories”. Take care of self righteous statements that begin with “the Jesus I know..” Had you taken time to speak with those who knew your father, grew up with him, saw him daily, were blessed by his generous spirit, saw his hard works and faith in God, you would never have posted such hurtful , inaccurate fantasy. May OUR GOD OF LIGHT AND GLORY OPEN YOUR EYES TO SEE THE TRUTH…AND MAY THE TRUTH SET YOU FREE.

  9. Heather-This is a bit awkward as we have not talked in too many years. I would rather be having coffee with you than blogging. Reading your blog about your dad was moving, maybe bittersweet. You are brave to take this journey. I was crazy about Uncle Ben. My memories are all wonderful where he is involved. I can still smell the smoke and hear the edge of his voice, a bit Dutch still. He sure loved you & Rodger. Sadly, short of asking for help, his alcohol dependence was his disease alone to conquer. It was not related to you or anyone else. I’ll gamble to say that it probably wasn’t even related to his faith, although his faith, among other supports and and most necessarily, a desire to stop drinking may have helped him heal. I believe that the glory of Uncle Ben and God are in all of those he loved, especially you and your brother. It seemed he celebrated his faith by loving his family and being grateful for what he held dear. The potential relationship between his alcohol dependence and his perceived, or real, lack of faith are questions that go unanswered for now. There are so many things to be grateful for, as you stated. God worked through your dad by creating you & Rodger and then your children. I see that as evidence of glory and of love. I don’t envy you for this journey of acceptance you’re on. It may be similar to your father’s journey in terms of contemplating, preparing, making changes, and then accepting what you have. Once on that side of things you will be renewed and steady. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I miss your dad, too. I wish you and your family all the best. Have a cup of coffee for me, will you, please?

  10. […] I wrote a couple months back, reflecting on one aspect of my experience with my dad, I never expected that I would receive snail mail and email from my family expressing such strong […]

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