This is a bittersweet time of year for me. It was this weekend in 1972. I was a senior in high school, a cheerleader, had a boyfriend, a car and good friends. I couldn't imagine that my life could get any better but it did. I was selected as a homecoming candidate which I never, in a million years, thought would happen. Homecoming week was like a dream to me. After years of struggling with friends and identity, I got to experience this week of convertibles, formals, pictures and "fame". I still remember that I thought I would just burst with excitement. I honestly didn't care who was queen, I was just so excited to be living this Cinderella story...every girl's dream. We even won the football game that Friday.
The parade was Friday afternoon and I got to ride in a 1962 Corvette convertible (did you notice I said Corvette?) with my name on the side. As the parade made it's way uptown, I saw him. There was my dad, arms across his chest, leaning up against the corner of the drive-in bank smiling and nodding at me. I knew that he was proud of me and that meant more to me than anything. Even now, as I envision that, I feel warm and loved. That scene is indelibly etched into my mind and it is precious to me.
My dad was my best friend despite the fact that we fought and argued and made up and fought some more. Dad and I were cut from the same mold, fiery and quick tempered, opinionated and outspoken, but soft, loyal and introspective with a heart that was easily broken. After a dispute or even a knock down drag out, he would quietly come in and sit on the edge of my bed that night to resolve it and make sure we were okay. He taught me a scripture that I always remember, Eph. 4:26, "Don't let the sun go down upon your wrath". It is something I have attained to in my life and I believe it contributed to my peacemaking. It's atop the list of things that he taught me through example.
My dad fixed things, including me. He was a farmer, a good manager and had that "jack of all trades" ingenuity. He was capable of doing anything (leaping tall buildings in a single bound), but most of all he answered my question. He was one of the only ones who made me feel beautiful, like I had value and had an irreplaceable role in a great adventure (Eldredge). I felt that I could do anything as long as he was there to cheer me on and support me. He had me in church every Sunday and I was a good girl. I didn't do bad things, in large part, because he held me to a high standard. I knew that he'd do anything for me, except let me fail at being who I was designed to be. (I loved my mother deeply and I have all the precious things she left with me too, especially her mother's heart.) As you can tell, my dad was my hero and I was his little girl.
That next Monday, October 2, 1972, after school, my life was changed forever. I was at cheer leading practice and my girlfriend came to tell me that Dad was in a tractor accident. I flew home and as we drove up the lane, I saw the pastor's car in our yard. I jumped out of the car and ran to the house. Standing at the gate was my friend's mom, shaking her head from side to side, crying and saying 'I'm so sorry'. I will never forget that day. It is as vivid and real as yesterday. I know it wasn't my fault or his choice but I felt abandoned on that day and absolutely helpless. That one moment in time when he was thrown from that tractor as it rolled, that one moment where his life was taken from this world, changed mine. I can't even count how many times I needed him to come to my rescue or to give me answers and unconditional love after that day. I felt abandoned and alone.
I was angry at God for years. What a cruel trick! He allowed me love someone so much and took him away. I couldn't conceive of a God that would do that and leave my mother, who was sick so much, and my seven year old sister alone. Isn't that an age old question with so many variations? One day, twenty some years later, a pastor asked me if I was angry at God for taking my dad. He explained that we live in a fallen world, accidents happen and God grieves with us. Yes, I believe that God is in control, He could have stopped it, and at this point, I don't need to know why He didn't or why it had to happen.
My life changed that day too. I suddenly began to see my Heavenly Father differently. I saw Him as someone I could turn to, someone I wanted to talk with, share my life's pain, bleed and cry with. It was sweet relief to be able to think of God as someone who would come along side me and cry my tears. My anger slowly melted away as I began to wrap my head around my newly found Dad. I began to understand that my Father was also my Savior. He was my Christ who suffered more physical and emotional pain than I can even imagine, who understands me intimately. He knows my heart, my every thought and loves me anyway. He thinks I'm a picture of the beauty He created, His princess, His bride. (He even blessed me with two sons that are so much like my dad.)
Today, as I write this, I feel the exact same feelings I felt that day in 1972, but through the tears, I feel the loving touch of the Father on my shoulder. I have a new hero in my life today but I don't think Dad minds....at all.