My biological father died 3 years ago. He was a great friend to a lot of people. He was handsome and super friendly. He had blond hair and blue eyes and was more than likely who I have to thank for naturally highlighting hair in the sunshine. A whole bunch of people really loved him. But, he wasn't a father.
He never grew up which I guess to some might be charming, but it's not the best quality for a little girl looking for stability in a male role model. Our relationship was strained to say the least especially as I got older. Divorce didn't help. Moving far away probably didn't help. His lack of interest in a true relationship really didn't help. He was a fair weather friend. He couldn't deal with the hard times or the confusing things or the frustrating moments. He was surface and I'm sooooooooo not. We were probably both a little thankful when I turned 18 and we didn't have to fake a good relationship anymore.
The last time I saw my dad alive was when I was 21 visiting other family in Pennsylvania for the holidays. I didn't want to go see them. I hadn't seen that part of my family in over a year and I couldn't visualize a scenario where there wouldn't be awkward moments. But, they asked me to come over and visit one evening and so I did dragging my cousin Julie along for the fun....ahem.
We walked in the door of my aunt's house, my grandmother took my coat and we leaned against the counter. My dad was sitting at the table about 10 feet away from me playing cards with my aunt. "Hey kiddo. What's up?" He didn't look up from his cards and went immediately back to his game. They kept playing like we weren't there. My grandmother tried to fill in the gaps with a few questions you ask people you don't really know and then I asked for my coat after about 20 minutes. We left and I'm so glad we did.
My cousin basically had her mouth open like she couldn't believe that just happened. I can't remember what we talked about on the way back, but I remember being really upset. We got back to my other aunt's house and she asked how it went. All I could think to say was, "He didn't even get up! He didn't even get up!" She looked confused and my cousin said, "really, it was awful."
Granted, he had no way of knowing sitting there that in less than a decade he would be dead. He didn't know that was the last time he would ever see his daughter on this earth. I like to think if he had known the exchange might have been different. I like to think he might have walked me to the car and apologized for not being there. I would have had the chance to forgive him and we could have agreed to be friends. It didn't happen that way.
But, when he was dying I halfway got the chance. He had been dying for several days. Everyone at his bedside had told him goodbye and had given him the proverbial permission to go. He was still hanging on. My step mother called and asked me if I would please speak to him. He was comatose at this point, but I agreed to do it. They held the phone to his ear and what I said doesn't matter. But I told him I absolutely forgave him for anything he felt was left unfinished. Later that evening he died.
I've thought about that exchange hundreds of times since then, but what has stuck with me is not that very one sided conversation. By now I had forgotten about the last time I'd seen him. But that day as I hung up the phone and took a deep breath I felt like God whispered to my soul that day, "I'll always get up for you."
People will always leave voids in our lives intentionally or not-it's part of being human. But, I have yet to experience a loss myself that God did not meet and exceed those expectations to absolute perfection. I'm so thankful that when we feel a void of any kind, temporary or seemingly permanent, he offers us Himself.
I'm thankful that when we come to him after moments or days or years, he gets up for us. He cares enough. We are that important to Him.