I joined the dead dad’s club some time ago. Actually, twenty years ago… today. It wasn’t a membership I had sought after or even wanted to join. Mainly because joining meant I was experiencing an unchangeable force of nature that was going to shift and shake my life in ways that I had no idea how or why.
I remember imaging what this day would be like in a year, in five years, in ten years… I never really went beyond that. It was hard enough to make meager attempts at any years beyond that very day without him, but twenty years? That was completely beyond my emotionally capacity. And to some degree, it still is. But here I sit, twenty years later.
I recently watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where George’s dad dies (season 3, episode 3). He’s standing outside of the hospital and Christina approaches him and says, “There’s a club. The Dead Dads Club. You can’t be in it until you are in it. You can try to understand, can sympathize, but until you feel that loss. My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.”
George solemnly looks at her and says, “I don’t know how to exist in a world my dad doesn’t.”
“Yeah, that never really changes,” replies Christina.
And that’s pretty much it. I had no idea how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t. And that hasn’t changed. I have, however, figured out how to be a member of the dead dad’s club.
There’s sadness that comes with the club. And sympathy. And sorrow. And tears… lots of tears. I guess I thought that club membership would somehow help to grow a thicker skin or even be able to tough it out. But really, it’s allowed me to be more more empathetic towards others and myself. I discovered that my world is lacking so much without him. As one of my biggest champions of my education, he wasn’t here to see me graduate from college. He won’t walk me down the aisle when I get married. My kids will never know him. My dad was my greatest champion in doing life well and loving it while I was doing it.
In twenty years I’ve learned to ask what’s next instead of why. Yes, I still question and ask why. And I did that a ton twenty years ago. God took my greatest champion on this earth. God could have chosen to heal my dad for the crazy stupid cancer that overtook his body and life. God could have elected for that moment a miracle to happen and be witnessed by many. But he didn’t.
I fully believe in a God who does not abandon. I fully believe in a God who is not only my creator, but also my greatest champion. I fully believe in a God who compels us to live a life full of faith and trust in him. And in these twenty year later days, that seems a bit easier said than done. But it’s all real and I believe it for every single person.
So, what’s next? Living life. There will always be a void, but there is so much other really good stuff, that the void just seems smaller. There is no one person who could take the place of my dad in my life, but God has seen fit to give me new champions. Friends and family who only want to the best for me. The void sits beside a community of people who fill a lot of similar roles, but just don’t have the witty disposition nor love of hot rods that my dad had.
The truth of the matter is that earthly champions will come and go. And for some of those who go, it will be hard. But the greatest champion for all of us is a loving, grace filled God bigger than any void, and so much better than a membership to the dead dads club.