I Lost My Dad. Then I Found Him.

Adoration. Competition. Resentment. Disappointment. Revelation. Adoration.

If I had to boil down my 62 years as Dad’s daughter, this relationship map sounds good at the beginning and the end, but what about all that stuff in the middle? Doesn’t sound like a very happy journey, does it? Nope, not if happiness is the goal. But if understanding, growth, and kindness are the goals, this might be the best journey I ever took.

Here’s the unexpected revelation: As I worked through all my feelings about my father’s passing, I realized with quite a shock that he too has been on that journey. First, he was my adored king of the world when I was little, and he adored me back. Then he had to compete with me for air space when I began voicing my opinions and holding my ground. We moved on to resent each other for failing to hand over the unconditional love we both needed so badly. Our disappointment in each other cemented over the years as we consistently failed to rediscover that simple place of kindness and adoration. The years of resentment and competition dug deep trenches between his side and my side.

Then he died.

I figured by now, at 62, that I had long ago relinquished my childish wish for closeness with him. We were comfortable with the amicable distance we had created, and forbidden topics were easily kept out of sight. So I assumed my grief would be short and sweet. Then he would fade into a manageable, respectful distance.

I didn’t expect to feel wrenching waves of regret that we didn’t find our way back to each other, that I didn’t try harder for that. I didn’t expect this deepening pool of compassion for him to claim my thoughts and render me nearly speechless. Most of all, I didn’t expect to feel him there with me so much, in ways that he was never there with me when he was alive, except when I was a little girl.

And here’s the cool part—the revelation. He was just as stuck inside himself, taking care of himself, as I am now, but now he’s set free to love without any worries for himself. People say that when we die, we go to be with God. I know they’re right. I can feel my dad loving me now the way God does, the way I always wished he could and, I’m sure, the way he also wished he could.

And I adore him.

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