Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Letters to my Father-in-law: One Year

Dear Gary,

So here we are, at the end of the year of firsts.  I began this letter at the anniversary of our last meeting in this life, and in the time it’s taken me to write this, we’re now on the brink of the first anniversary of your passing.  I’d like to think you already know this, but you’ve been so heavy on my heart and mind – especially through the holidays – that I almost feel like I just saw you. 

I also like to think that you get to follow along just a bit through our daily lives, and therefore already know events and changes that have taken place, so I’ll not bore you with the usual “what’s been happening lately” paragraphs these letters seem to require.

As the time grows between your passing and our life now, I find that I’m seeing more and more reasons to miss you.  Especially during the holidays – it was difficult.  It was hard to watch my little girl visit family and friends as I slowly realized that you, her papa, would not be part of these special holidays or future special memories.  It was hard to see people who still have the chance to be something important and extraordinary in her life choose to not be.  Even in those whom I long ceased to be disappointed, I find new disappointment as my daughter grows and becomes more aware of the grandpas in other little girls lives.  This fresh awareness causes me to find renewed value in who you were and what you chose to be.  And I find I’m still painfully disappointed that you died. 

I gave up, long ago, on finding examples of close, active, godly grandfathers in my own line.  But as my daughter grows, and we plan more children, that void has suddenly inspired a new bitterness in my heart.  Suddenly I must deal not only with my own lack of a godly father and close grandfathers, but I must deal with the lack of those for my daughter.  The heartbreak surprises me.

I find I’m surprised by the continued pain your absence brings.  It feels as if I’m grieving my own father, and I suppose in a way I am.  From even before Jason and I began dating to our wedding and beyond, I heard countless stories of a strong, steadfast man loving and guiding his children as they grew.  Then I was privileged to be a part of those stories as a daughter-in-law.  I was happy to be grafted in to such a strong and loving family with a wonderful heritage.  And then you were gone.

At times I feel lost and overwhelmed at the thought of carrying that heritage on without the link of you.  At times I feel guilty for not recognizing the value of you to the extent that I feel it now.  Perhaps that is normal, but I feel it deeply anyway. 

You and I both understood, through different circumstances, the importance of a father and godly father figures in our own and our children’s lives.  I think right now you would know almost exactly what I’m feeling.  I’m certain that at times through your children’s lives you again mourned the loss of your own father, Alvin, in new ways.  I know you would point me away from the overwhelming loss I’m feeling and toward the love and blessing of the God we both called Father.  I’m certain you would remind me of God's offered reassurance of blessing and hope and restoration of things lost.  I know you experienced this first-hand in your own life, and surely you hoped those you left behind would search it out as well.  Through all the emails still in my inbox – yes, I’m an e-hoarder – you signed off with phrases like, “I love you all and thank the LORD for His covering us in the storm!!!” and “Can't believe I am so blessed.” And then my very last message from you, “God is good and we are indeed blessed to rest in His care.

You had cares through your life, but you were faithful to put them into the hands of God – and leave them there – trusting that God’s faithfulness to yourself and your family would be more than enough to see us through.

Though you’re gone, and I deeply miss you – seemingly more and more – I find I can keep those parts of you alive that you worked so hard to infuse in those you loved.  I still don’t know how the empty space you left behind can ever be filled, but I do know the same God you knew and loved, and I work hard to trust, like you did, that beyond what circumstances – or even our own history – might be telling us, that God is a good God of faithfulness who blesses us and covers us in the storm and calls us to rest in His care.

Above all, I want to say thank you, Gary, for all you were and all you chose to be.  I am grateful to be living in the blessing and the heritage of you and your dear family.  And I cannot wait to hug you again.

All my heart,
your daughter-in-law Jessica


heather said...

This is beautiful.

Pressing on and pressing in.... said...

You were and are so blessed. It is good to share the pain in your heart, a wonderful tribute to love.

Jen Rouse said...

But just think--even though you may not have had a godly grandfather, and your daughter might not...God willing, your own grandchildren will. You may not have that godly heritage in your own life, but you and Jason can BE that godly heritage in the lives of your own family. What a blessing!

Momae' said...

Jessica.. I do not know how you do it.. but you do you paint hearts. Thank you for lettin your gift flow.

Jeff and Kim said...

Beautiful, Jess.