We lost our first baby in February of last year, finding out on the sixth and likely just days after its heart stopped beating. I’ve found some comfort in giving this baby a name inspired by Luke 2:6, which is a passage where baby Jesus was born. 2:6 became 02/06 – February 6th. In the following several months I found myself in the deepest, darkest place I’ve been. Every day was a struggle to get out of bed as depression set in. Curtains drawn when we were home, the weight of lost dreams heavy on our shoulders. It would be three months before I could force myself to go to church and hear messages of hope and truth, and easily six months before I sat through my first service without breaking down. Father’s Day last year was… broken. I didn’t know how to deal with it, I didn’t know how to help my wife. It was everything I could pull together to keep putting one foot in front of the other and try to put my happy face on for people (and lets just say that didn’t work out so well either.
This year is somehow different. Two years in a row and two children with lost childhoods, and they took participation in that version of life with them. Almost-fathering, to me, is the only way I can keep their memory alive. This place – where I start nearly every time with tears streaming down my face – has become a refuge where I end up writing messages of tribute and hope because of their memory. This is where my pride as their father shines through the easiest; where I don’t have to see sympathy faces when someone finds out Jonah didn’t come home and where the things I have to say are silent but forceful. Proud father. Lost Fatherhood. Every. Day. I’m taking it upon myself to send a message to out into the vastness of the internet, hoping that in some way it will carry a fraction of the hope that their lives would have embodied. This year I have a message for them that I should have spent a lifetime teaching.
The rest of this is for Jonah and his big brother Luke:
Boys, you will need to make choices every single day about what kind of man you will become. Other kids will make fun of you for the clothes you wear or the things you say – let them. You are strong and you are powerful, and your restraint will be a beacon for the kids who are watching.
As you grow older, people will have an opinion that doesn’t align with yours – embrace them. Iron sharpens iron, and their perspective will either strengthen your beliefs or shift them in another direction. Character shows strongest in times of struggle, and yours will be a rock that others will turn to.
There will be times that people close to you will betray your expectations – forgive them. Things happen in every person’s life that shift their focus but you’re here for them, not the other way around. It isn’t about you anyway.
Live your life on purpose: love people who are different than you, show mercy to those who have wronged you, and be a man whose principles break the mightiest of waterfalls. It won’t be easy and you will stand out among your peers, but it isn’t about them anyway.
Always be the lightness that carries your day. Life will weigh on your shoulders and there will be times that you don’t feel like you can take another step – do it anyway. Having the ability to look beyond your struggles will move mountains, and you never know who will be following in your footsteps.
You will get knocked down more times than you can count – get up anyway. Failure is something to be feared but is a part of every day life, and true strength is found in those who get up just one more time than they have fallen. Patience is built in times of hardship, and grace is received on your knees in conversation with the Lord.
Be strong and be proud. The tiniest rain drop creates ripples in the distance, and people aren’t fond of someone who rocks the boat – do it anyway. Times like these take a steeled focus to be a person of integrity. A broken clock is right twice a day, and it is your responsibility to take an honest look at yourself to see whether or not you are working in the way you were built to.
You will have times where you feel like you’ve been swallowed up by the world, where you can’t catch a break and the universe conspires against you – continue anyway. This life is filled with peaks and valleys, and you’ll never learn the value of one without the other.
Always remember health and humility in prayer. Health for yourself and those around you, because tomorrow will not come for many. Humility for having the perspective to realize when you’re moving in the wrong direction and the courage to do something about it. Life never turns out the way we plan, but our plan isn’t the one that counts anyway.
There is nothing you could do to make me love you less. I have been your father since the day we started hoping for you and that will never change. I’ll never stop looking for you, from the most heart broken of days to the most joy filled experiences we’ll ever know. I know you’re watching and taking care of us, because it was never about me anyway.
You are my children, and I am your dad. Always.
I love you