I wanted to post this on Father’s Day, but like most holidays, I was tied up with my family. It was a nice day for Rod that began with breakfast in bed (nothing fancy, just his preferred peanut butter and mayo – ew – and a Coke Zero). Randa and Kaity joined us, of course. Josh and Paige are usually in Myrtle Beach during the week of Father’s Day, and this year was no exception. However, I got them to leave notes for Rod before they left, and they called bright and early, here in spirit.

We had a nice church service and a low key afternoon (Rod binged on Andy Griffith, Deadliest Catch, and Cops before taking a nap), then met up with my Dad and Mom for dinner.

I have loved watching my husband love our babies. I had a gift in seeing the kind of father he was before we married – he is a great giver of quality time. But seeing him love our girls has been a special gift to me. I love that even at their young ages, he is part of what they have going on and has his own special traditions with them. I also love that I get to see my Dad interacting as “Papa” to Randa and Kaity. He frequently will stop in the middle of a visit and say, “This is what it’s all about.” My Dad definitely does not realize how wise he is.

However, in the midst of all the celebration, there were some other dads occupying my mind, and before the 2008 version of the day is too far past, I want to introduce you to them:

The first was a 25 year old bachelor when he found out he was a dad… to a one year old son! I guess when observing from outside, that might seem to someone like a soap plot, but it is not always that way. This guy was a cop, military, tough. But a cherub-cheeked, blond-curly-blue eyed boy brought his heart out to his sleeve. And eight years later, this father is on the eve of fighting in court to raise his little boy in his custody. I am not going to discuss details or blame, but I will say that this little boy – especially dear to me as he is my nephew – needs and deserves to feel happy and safe and free of grown-up worries. I could not be prouder of my big brother for the kind of dad he is, and however things work out, I know he is the absolute best dad that my nephew could have. Will you say a prayer for them with me tomorrow?

The second dad is one I have never and probably will never meet. He is a father of six, but just a few weeks ago, his youngest was lost in a tragic accident. I won’t print his name because I am not trying to capitalize on what happened, but if you are at all familiar with Christian music, you know. This man was on my mind all day yesterday, especially as Rod and I listened several times to a song he wrote for his little girls, one about enjoying the moments as they come and letting go when that time comes. We prayed for this man yesterday, and his family, as we wondered what the horror of losing a child must be like. I fret now just when Kaity or Miranda “graduate” to a new level, because I know it means they are one tiny bit less “mine” whenever they learn some wonderful new thing. I can’t imagine what the pain must be for parents who bury a child, even when they have the great hope of Heaven; I only thank God for being our Heavenly Father, one who somehow, makes everything okay for us.

There are other dads we tend to think of when this time of year comes around. Rod has said goodbye to the three men who shaped him as a child – his Pawpaw, his uncle Chet, and finally, his “Pop.” None of these men was Rod’s natural father, but they were all precious and essential to him, and though I truly did not get to know any of them, I thank them for their parts in teaching Rod to be the kind of daddy he is. We also think of those “surrogate” dads who have been there for us or our children in fun times and trying times and lesson times… Del, Mort, Grizzly, Uncle Rick, Uncle Frank, Uncle Larry. And finally, I can’t help but think of a man I lost a few years ago, not because he died, but because of those kinds of unexplainable twists relationships take. I had one Papa growing up, who was generous and kind and funny and taught me how to ride a bike. I don’t think I will ever get him back in this life, but I carry his silly songs and World War II knowledge and the patient, welcoming spirit he once showed with me, and I will pass it to my children.

Because God’s fatherly love is the kind that teaches us a most important lesson: that love is an action and it must be passed on. Love is a also a risk, and it can be used to hurt us through death or broken relationships or just time and distance. But ultimately, it is the greatest gift available to us here on earth. It means we must forgive when no one is saying “I’m sorry.” It means passing forward the kindness and letting go of the injustices.

To all the dads I speak of here, whether you are here, in Heaven, or somewhere unreachable to me, thank you for the love you have given.