Dear Dads

Dear Dads,

It seems that much has been said about how important you are to your sons. Studies have been conducted, statistics have been quoted, and the clarion call has been given for dads to turn their attention to rearing sons.  I know that your sons need you. Daughters will marry a son one day and the husband he becomes is directly related to his relationship to you, his dad. But, don’t forget about us, your daughters. We need you, too.

This will be my fourth Father’s Day since my dad died.  Growing up, Dad and I had an up-and-down relationship for many reasons, none of which are really important here. What is important is that through a 4-month illness that ended with his death, God taught me how critically important dads are in the lives of their daughters.

What you do with my heart today influences who gets it tomorrow. Do you realize you are the first man that we love and you hold our hearts in your hands?  You are the most important man in your daughter’s life. Oh, we get that you don’t show emotion easily or that putting words to your feelings is difficult. But your girls need to hear you say the words, “I love you.” And, maybe, even more importantly, “I am proud of you.” If you never say it to us, we will find someone . . . anyone . . . who will. Whether we are six years old showing you our latest school day achievement or you are old and I am gray, a daughter never ceases longing to hear those words from her dad.

It was the last lucid conversation I had with my Dad, when he gave me that gift.  When I entered his hospital room that memorable day, Dad reached for my hand and mouthed the words, “You are beautiful.” Since he was on a ventilator and I was having to read his lips, I asked, “Did you just say, ‘I am Beautiful?’”  He shook his head yes and then mouthed, “I love you.” If that was all I had been given that day, it would have been enough.

What you teach me today will guide my footsteps in the future. You have been given the responsibility to teach us. Even though it seems like we don’t take your advice or you wonder if we were even listening, you would be surprised. Remember, you are our primary teacher about God, life, and relationships. What you teach us today, determines how we walk in the future, and we are listening.

When my husband, Jay, and I returned later that day and walked back into his room, Dad said, “It’s good to have a voice again and I am glad that you are here.” (The medical staff had been testing out a new speaking valve.)  Over the next 30 minutes, Dad had things he wanted to say to Jay and me. He began with a litany of practical advice; advice that still guides me today and tips for living life as it should.  That was pure “Dad.”  He spoke to Jay, affirming him as my husband, thanking him for being the man that he is, and for loving me. I will never forget Dad saying, “Jay, you fill Terri’s gaps. You and Terri have a very strong bond and I am glad that you found each other.”

How you live as a man today, affects how I live as a woman tomorrow.  We are watching you constantly.  We see how you treat our moms and begin to learn how our own husbands should treat us. We watch you as you lead, provide, and protect our family and learn that there is safety in submitting to godly leadership. As we watch you fill the role God designed for you, we learn that we can rest comfortably in the role God designed for us.

Dad finished this 30-minute conversation by telling us how worried he was about his wife. Even in his illness he wanted to take care of his family. He was very direct in saying that he was okay, but she needed someone to watch out for her. He asked us to promise that we would take care of her while he was not able to do so. It really bothered him that he was not there for her and wanted to make sure that she was being taken care of.

How you relate to me as father, influences how I see God as Father. God has chosen to reveal himself as Abba, Father and our only point of reference of what that really means is you.  No pressure, dads, but we need you to strive daily to emulate the character of God so that we know what holiness, justice, mercy, grace, loving discipline, steadfastness, and trustworthiness really mean.  That all begins with you having a secure, growing relationship with God. You cannot be imitators of Christ if you do not truly know Christ.

For me, the most significant part of the conversation was when he told me the story of a nurse who shared a clear presentation of the Gospel and prayed with him. Dad looked me in the eye, affirmed his faith in Christ, and said, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”  I knew then and there that if Dad died that night he would spend eternity in heaven. My soul . . . and his soul . . . were at peace. It wasn’t so much that I had not given up on him, but that God had not given up on him.

When the monsters of the world appear and we scream “Daddy!” don’t ever stop coming. We need to know you will be there, even if it is to coach us from the sidelines on how to stand firm in the face of the evil one, or to remind us that there really aren’t any monsters under the bed. The first time you stop coming is when we begin to flounder, stop trusting, and start looking for security elsewhere.  There are some things we need to know we can count on and you are one of them. You should know, however, if you have stopped coming, we your daughters, keep looking for you and it is never too late to take up the dragon-wielding sword again.

It has been four years, but I still remember February 2, 2008 like it was yesterday. It was my one and only clear, cognitive, truly “Dad” conversation that I had with him before he died. I thank God for those 30 minutes. There was a lot of water under the bridge for Dad and me, but that short conversation calmed much of the white water that had been raging.  My only regret is that it took an end-of-life situation for that conversation to happen. I don’t know if Dad sensed that was his one chance to say what he needed to say to me or what was happening. Regardless, it will be the most cherished 30 minutes in my Dad’s and my relationship. A gift that remains priceless.

Dads, your daughters love you and long for you. You are our hero, our teacher, and the one man that will always have our hearts. You do matter in our lives. We look up to you and crave to have you in our lives. On this Father’s Day, we affirm you and encourage you to continue the journey to be a godly dad today so that we can become godly women tomorrow.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads . . . from a Daughter