When my dad passed away, almost 7 years ago, I had to change my route to take the kids to school because I couldn't bear to pass by his fire station. I would break out in sobs every time I saw a fireman or heard the blare of sirens. For the past few years now I pass by the station almost daily, and I rarely well up when I see the firemen out and about. But this week I was driving past and I happened to glance at the station and I saw a firefighter sitting on the front porch swing with a woman. I have no idea who they were, but I have been flooded with emotion ever since! I used to sit on that exact porch swing and listen to hundreds of stories about the calls he would go on, or his buddies at the club, or something funny his dogs did. He always had a story. And he would listen to me share every detail of whatever it was I was doing that week. If you've heard my Chloe talk, then you know what I mean 'cause she gets it from me. :) There we'd sit, on that old white porch swing.
I have two big regrets that I've been holding onto for 7 years. The first is that I never voiced to him how much he meant to me. If you didn't know us you would have never guessed that I was his step-daughter. We didn't live like that, I have been his daughter for almost 30 years and I always will be. I know that he loved me unconditionally, but I felt remorseful that I never told him enough how much I loved him. The second regret is that I didn't take nearly enough pictures. I only have a handful of photos of him with me or with my kids and each one of them is dearly treasured. I have been so engulfed in the grief of these two things since he died that I was clouding my memories. For whatever reason, seeing that girl on the porch swing opened up a portal to the past that allowed me to escape into dozens of precious memories. He came to every one of my softball games in 8th grade that he was off work for. I wasn't even any good, but he was there cheering me on! He taught me to drive in that old beast of a station wagon; if I could drive that I could drive anything. He took me to my dentist appointments, picked me up from school, built forts with me in the snow, taught me the game of football (made me into a Cowboy's fan), and gave me my love for Elvis and country music. When my beloved grandmother passed away suddenly when I was 15, he was home to take the call and carry me through my grief. He was my dad, 100%, no questions asked. He'd take me on midnight runs to the store, help me with my homework, make drawings for book reports, take us to the lake, drop me off with my friends at the mall or the fair and pick me up any time of the night. He never complained about it, he just did it, like he enjoyed it all! I loved that about him. I do remember one Christmas as an adult that I got him a CD with a country song on it that I loved to hear talking about the love for a step-dad who really wasn't a step at all. I sat on his lap (yes, I was grown!) and we listened to it together with the family around. I can't believe that I had forgotten that, it was so special to me! All of these memories flooding back to me because of a porch swing.
I do have nightmares still, they have been very frequent as of late. Each one is different, yet all the same. There's me and my dad, and he's dying. Always a different death, but always long and dramatic with a lot of agony and sorrow, but a lot of talking and sharing and saying goodbye. I have felt plagued by these, often waking up feeling the full weight of new grief all over again. But after this floodgate brought on by a simple porch swing, I count them as a gift from God. Night after night he allows me the opportunity to say goodbye, to tell him how much he means to me and how much I'm going to miss him. I no longer count them as nightmares, they are my healing. After all, it's not really "good bye" that I'm saying. It's more like, "See you real soon!" My dad is in Heaven. I know this, not because he was a good man (although, he was the best), not because everyone goes to Heaven (because they don't), but because, many years before God took him home, my dad chose to put his trust and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ, the ONLY Way, Truth, and Life. And, because I am also trusting in Jesus and Him alone for my salvation, I know that I will see him again in Heaven one day. Oh, but the pain of waiting!
AND ALL OF THIS IS BECAUSE OF A PORCH SWING! Praise God for His giant miracles in everyday randomness! I love this song by Mercy Me. I have a lot of loved ones waiting for me in Heaven and I can't wait to see them all again!