|March 13, 2004|
“God sets the lonely in families” Psalm 68:6
I remember the last time I hugged my Dad. He was wearing a purple Catholic High School Alumni polo shirt. I'll never forget it. I didn't want that hug to end because I didn't know when the next hug would be. Honestly, I never dreamed it would be the last hug.
His eyes were filled with tears as he smiled at me and I tried to soak in every moment. My Dad had such a sweet smile. It always had a way of melting my heart. This was his last night home on a furlough from his military training in Fort Polk, Louisiana. He would soon go on to serve with the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team at Camp Cooke in Taji, Iraq. I knew he wasn't telling us everything about how dangerous this would be, but I really didn't anticipate what was about to happen next. I left a teary mess on his shoulder that night; that one last hug.
My Dad was a Chief Warrant Officer. He was set to retire but couldn't stand the thought of letting his men go to war while he stayed back home, so he put off his (much deserved) retirement. His guys, most of them young, called him “Chief”. He told me he thought of these soldiers as family. He had promised their mothers he would bring them home, a promise that weighed heavy on him. He loved these guys and he was so proud to serve his country along side them.
So off he went on this new adventure. Two weeks had gone by and unbeknownst to us back home, Camp Cooke had been receiving mortar attacks on a daily basis. Early one morning, the camp was hit with two separate attacks. I've heard rumors that during the first attack, Dad was trying to get his guys into the safety of the bunker. It sounds like something he would do.
When they all thought it was safe, they emerged from the bunkers and that's when a second attack took them by surprise. The medics did all they could to save my Dad but his injuries were too severe. He died on the helicopter ride to the hospital in Baghdad. Three of his buddies didn't make it either. April 24, 2004 was the end of my Dad's journey in this life. He was 49 years old.
On a rainy spring afternoon, I got the phone call no one wants to get. It rocked my world and it shattered my heart. I threw the phone. I yelled obscenities. It was awful. The next two weeks were a blur. There was a lot of confusion, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of waiting. (It would be May 5 before we even had the funeral.) There were meetings at the funeral home, hard conversations with the Casualty Officer, and disoriented interviews with the media.
A few days into this nightmare, I remember sitting outside on a beautiful sunny April day. It was almost cruel; the fresh green leaves against a clear blue sky. Dad loved days like these. And I thought to myself, “Where are the dark clouds? It should be storming today, this week, this year. And the world should stop because this amazing man has been taken from us.” But the world didn't stop.
I graduated from college just weeks after Dad's funeral. Graduation was a day my Dad had been especially looking forward to. I would be the only child of three to graduate college. It was a really big deal for my Dad. I was supposed to video tape it and send it to Iraq. On that graduation day I felt the reality of it all. There would be no sending him a tape of this day. He really was gone. He really wasn't coming back. That day started my journey of healing from the grief and finding a way to move forward. My relationship with the Lord was still new at that time. I didn't have the maturity yet to understand the role of my heavenly Father, so filling the void of my earthly father was a struggle. And I'll be honest with you, sometimes it's still a struggle.
I went on to have two beautiful boys that my Dad will never meet, which added a new dimension to my grief. I'm very blessed that my boys have my husband's parents as grandparents (and they are amazing grandparents!), but I deeply feel the absence of my parents on holidays, at the boy's birthday parties, soccer games and graduations and on random days of any given week. It's a lonely feeling.
I miss being a daughter.
Since my Dad died I've searched for Scriptures about how God relates to daughters. It used to bother me that I would find amazing passages speaking about sons but no daughters. One of my favorite passages is Galatians 4:4-7. You must read this. It's beautiful.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
(Galatians 4:4-7, emphasis added)
Wow, I love this passage for so many reasons. We are adopted as God's children and He loves us as His own! But why no mention of daughters? In Jewish culture, being the firstborn son was a big deal. The firstborn son received a double portion of his father's inheritance, but their was typically no inheritance for the daughter. So where does that leave the daughters of God?
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
The obvious conclusion is that, as daughters, we are looked upon as having the same significance as firstborn sons with full rights to the father's inheritance!
I'm more than a daughter.
That is powerful! Despite what your family (or lack thereof) may look like, you are not an orphan. If you've lost a parent or both parents at any age, you can certainly feel like an orphan. But the truth is, God is a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). For us who are in Christ, we are in the family of God. For us women, we are more than daughters.
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household”
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)
Over and over again God reminds us that we belong to Him, adopted into His family. When I miss my parents and I feel the loneliness of it all, I remember that I belong to a family that will never be torn apart. I remember that Jesus has conquered death and that He makes all things new (Rev 21:5)!
“God sets the lonely in families” Psalm 68:6