Fatherless Fathers’ Day

May 2004 013A few weeks ago, my Facebook pages and blog feed were abuzz with discussions about impending Mothers’ Day worship services. Most of the posts said essentially the same thing: Remember that Mothers’ Day is hard for many people. It’s hard for women who have chosen not to be mothers and women who want to be mothers but aren’t; it’s hard for people who have difficult relationships with their mothers and for people whose mothers have died. People were posting personal essays and sensitive Mothers’ Day prayers. Post after post after post about motherhood.

And now, this week before Fathers’ Day–nothing. My virtual world is surprisingly silent on the topic. But my physical world, inside my own head, it’s quite noisy.

This will be my first fatherless Fathers’ Day. That’s how I’ve been thinking of it. The first Fathers’ Day since my dad died on March 7. The first Fathers’ Day that I can’t mail a card to wherever it is he is living now. (Not to say it will be the first that I haven’t mailed a card.)

There will be no plotting with my brother about a gift. No Sunday afternoon phone call so all the kids can shout “Happy Fathers’ Day” across the line. Just silence. Or, more likely, a much less exuberant phone call to my mom.

My first fatherless Fathers’ Day.

Except it’s not. Because I have had and always will have a father. Actually, a dad. (I NEVER referred to him as “my father” until he died. What’s up with that?)

Just because my dad has died does not mean I don’t have him any more. I have him–sometimes more of him than I want, but usually just enough. The man he was has shaped who I am–who I continue to be. Changing circumstances don’t change our essence. Or, as Dad liked to say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

So here I am. Facing this upcoming Fathers’ Day with dread and with gratitude.

Dread because I know that I will feel my grief deeply that day. I will be sad. Very sad.

Gratitude because I have a father that I miss. Not everyone can say that.

My friend’s father died several months before mine, and her grief is very different. She grieves because her father never overcame his alcoholism. Was never able to be the father or grandfather that she wanted him to be. She grieves because she never had a warm and loving relationship with him. And now that he has died, her hope for his healing–for their healing–has died with him.

And so, in the midst of mourning, I acknowledge that my particular grief–the grief of missing a wonderful father–is it’s own distinct blessing. Even as the tears flow, I continue to receive the gift of being my dad’s daughter.

New Years Eve 2003 029

Here are links to previous posts about my dad’s illness and death:

Psalm 63 Call to Worship–from the hospital
Why the Silence–includes the poem I wrote for Dad’s funeral
Praying through Grief–the doodle prayer from Dad’s hospital stay
On Living Close to Death–a Lenten sermon focusing on Jesus’ meal with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus
Holy Week–on why I am canceling Lent next year
Attending Death–my Good Friday post at Practicing Families
Living with “Desire”–and despair


12 thoughts on “Fatherless Fathers’ Day

  1. Reblogged this on Everflowing Stream and commented:
    This is a good blog post that deserves wider attention. Father’s Day is just a couple of days away, and it can be a hard day for some people. I have had difficult relationships with fathers and father figures, so I have different thoughts on Father’s Day than this writer, but I appreciate her attention to the fact that this is not an easy day for some folks.

  2. Thanks Joanna for the thoughtful post. This will be my first since dad passed away. My situation is different than yours, but aren’t they all? Keep writing – I appreciate your observations and ability to cut to the chase on issues. Bless you!

  3. It’s been 40 years for me, and he is still very much with me, in so many ways that I cannot begin to explain. Good memories of a man whom most people would never consider great, but to me, he was my dad, with his flaws and his good qualities, and I loved him for all he brought to us in his character and faithfulness. Thank you for this reminder, and I hope Sunday will be a good day for all of you to rally around your mother, as you know she will be missing him as well. 🙂

  4. My Pop died Halloween 2007. My brother and I, and our spouses and children, visit him every Father’s Day at the cemetary and sit it lawn chairs and drink beer and share beer with him. We get pictures every year, and it just grows and grows as our children have their own children. The babies never got to know him, but he lives through brother and I and those who knew and loved him. He was, and is, our Patriarch and we miss him terribly. Love you, Pop. See ya Sunday.

  5. Good job on this piece. We just celebrated my Dad’s 80th birthday. It was a good day–all 6 of us sibs here together. (I’m the oldest.) Mama left us 19 years ago…. Dad usedta joke that he’d make it to 88! (I’m rooting for the guy!) I’m so grateful he’s still around. I’m coming to understand about being a motherless child but at least not an orphan yet. I’ll pray for you on Sunday.

  6. Thank you so much for acknowledging those of us that have lost our fathers. I lost mine way too soon and even though he has been gone over 20 years now; I still grieve every Father’s Day. I steel myself for the sermon that may or may not celebrate fathers and wait to hear something that confirms the difficulty of this holiday. May you continue to find comfort in God’s loving embrace.

    • Leigh, I can’t figure out why there seems to be so much more sensitivity around Mothers’ Day. Peace be with you–especially this weekend.

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