“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”
When our mom spent Christmas (2002) in the hospital, little did we know that our dad would not be with us on Easter (2003). Thankfully, our mom returned home to us before the New Year. With my sister Jane, mom and me at his bedside, our dad went Home to be with the Lord on March 13, 2003. During the last days of his life, my mom, sister Jane and I spent time by my dad’s bedside, ministering to his needs and keeping him company. During that time, a myriad of lifelong memories filled my mind and heart. The love between a devoted dad and his daughter is a very special one. It is an unbreakable bond that grows stronger as the years go by and lasts longer than life itself. There is a saying, “When you have a son; you have him until he finds a wife. When you have a daughter, you have her for the rest of your life.” A dad and a daughter will always belong to each other, whatever (or whomever) the winds of time brings along life‘s journey.
[Dad Teaching Me the Christmas Story]
Throughout my life, I have had many teachers in grammar school, junior and senior high schools, colleges and graduate school. The first teacher I ever had was my dad. He taught me how to say my prayers and to go to church. My dad prayed with me every night and brought me to church every Sunday. He taught me how to color and use all the colors in the crayon box. All my pictures were beautiful in his eyes, despite the staggered streaks outside the lines. He taught me how to spell and write my full name, which was no small task with an eight-letter middle name and a twelve-letter last name. He helped me with my math and taught me how to play checkers, and was very proud of me when I became better than he was at them both.
My very first teacher, my dad, made the greatest and most lasting impact in my life, because he taught by example. The greatest and most enduring lesson my dad taught me, which shapes the very core of my being, is that God exists and that He plays an important part in my life. My dad taught me what God was like through his own example of how he loved his children. He loved us unconditionally. No matter what we did or said or how we treated him, we knew he would never throw us out of his house or disown us. During my teenage and young adult life my dad and I would argue about a lot of things, from sports to religion, but our arguments would always end the same way. This unique dynamic in our relationship reminded me of the Looney Tunes cartoon about a sheepdog and coyote. At the beginning of the cartoon, they would greet each other while punching in their time clocks, through the whole cartoon they would beat up on each other because the sheepdog was protecting the sheep and the coyote was trying his darnedest to have a sheep for dinner; and at the end of the cartoon, they would wish each other a good night which punching their time clocks (I hope somebody remembers this cartoon!). In thee middle of our heated discussion (disagreement), when my dad realized the time and that he had to be somewhere else, he would give me a hug and a kiss and say, “Good bye dear daughter. See you later.” It happened every time, like clockwork. Another example of his unconditional love was, even though he did not like baseball or sports in general, because he believed players were overpaid and did not work as had to for his machinist pay check, he always had time to play our version of baseball with me. At the neighborhood school ground, he would throw a softball at close range, so that I could hit it with an old wooden bat. My dad and I had theological differences, as I got older, but we did have the same faith in the things that mattered most. We both loved Jesus and had Him as our Lord and Savior. Everything else was small stuff.
Throughout my life, my dad gave me special nicknames. As a little girl, I was his “little soldier,” because I was a bit of a tomboy and liked to play army. During high school, I was his “good student.” During college, I was “the professor.” When I was teaching, I was “the teacher.” When my mom and dad came to live with me, after he had a severe stroke, I was his “kitchen chef,” because I made some of his meals, along with my sister Jane. And then there are the Polish nicknames I won’t even get into. The nickname I loved hearing my dad call me the most was “dear daughter.” I tried to call my parents every night, when we lived apart, and every night he would end the conversation by saying, “Good night, dear daughter.”
During my childhood, my dad took me on various errands, He took me grocery shopping, where I watched him pick out the best bargains and then explain how important it was to save money to me (and anyone else within earshot). Up and down the aisles, he would greet everyone he met and would introduce me as his oldest daughter. He took me along when he went to pay the bills, always on time. He took me on a hospital visit, when he had to have his dressings changed on his hands, after he severely burned while putting out a fire that got out of control in the upstairs heating stove. Even then, my dad carried me in his other arms as he entered the hospital for his dressing change. It was good for me to go with him and see that his injured hands weer getting better. He also took me along to the cemetery, to visit my grandparents’ graves. After saying a prayer, he would water the plants and remove debris from the grave sights, and then we would take a walk around the cemetery. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with my dad, but it was only when I got older that I realized how priceless those times were. It was during those times, when I saw how much he loved his family and how he took care of us in every way he was able, that I learned what unconditional love was all about.
[Mom and Dad at My High School Graduation]
My dad was always there for me when I needed him the most. He held me in his arms, all night long, when I had a toothache. He attended all my graduations. He drove me back to the safety of his home, after I failed miserably at my first job. And he blessed my decision to live far away from home to work at my next job, even though he did not like me living so far away from him. I knew that whatever I needed, my dad would be there for me to provide for my needs, in the same way he provided for his whole family. During the last years of his life, it was our turn to take care of him.
These are the memories that flooded my mind and heart as we sat by our dad’s bedside. And these are the memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. Why is it that when a loved one dies, we tend to emphasize all the good memories and forget everything else? My dad wasn’t the “Father Knows Best” TV-type dad. Then again, I wasn’t the “Father Knows Best” TV-type daughter nicknamed “Kitten” either. I don’t know of any TV dad who has experienced the real life struggles my dad overcame, along with the God-given blessings that followed. My dad experienced the horrors of WWII; having his treasured family farm taken away by the Russians, seeing his beloved homeland nearly destroyed, and being captured and forced into slave labor on a German farm/prison camp. After immigrating to America, he met his wife of 49 years and started a family, only to experience the heartache of his firstborn daughter being born with cerebral palsy. Through it all, my dad never lost his faith in God. And through it all, God blessed him with a loving wife, a son and two more daughters (besides “Little Lydia”), five cherished grandsons, and the ability to save money beyond human comprehension. My dad was not a sophisticated man, but he was an honorable man, and everything he did was for his family.
Why is it that we tend to think more of the good memories and forget everything else, especially when a loved one passes? I believe the answer is found in Scripture. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” That is what my dad did, he loved his family deeply; he loved us unconditionally, he provided for our needs faithfully, and he forgave us over and over again. He was a faithful husband, a devoted father, and a doting grandpa. His children and grandchildren are still learning through his example. These are our forever memories. Everything else is small stuff.
Every Father’s Day I will miss my dad terribly. I will miss him asking me, during a ballgame, “Is my team winning?” (meaning the team that is apposing mine). I miss his mischievous grin and twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes when he teases. After ten Father’s days without my dad, there will still be tears; some will be tears of sorrow because missing him will never go away in my lifetime, but most will be tears of triumph because of the victory we who trust God all have in our Lord Jesus Christ.
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that has been written will come true: ’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where O death, is your victory?
Where O death, is your sting?’
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I Corinthians 15:34-37
I will never forget the sound of my dad’s last breath. At that time, it was my turn to say, “Good bye dear Tata. See you later” (Tata means “daddy” in Polish).
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!
Next Post will be: “In Search of the Perfect Church”