Not even my daughter… His words tore her little heart into a million tiny pieces. The pain was too much. She couldn’t breathe. This must be what death feels like, she thought to herself. The sobs overtook her young body and she crumpled to the floor of her bedroom. She became certain of one thing; that this was the last time her stepfather would ever hurt her again…
That young girl was me. I was fifteen when this scene took place and my step-dad’s words cut me to the very core of my being. You see, he was the only Father I had ever known from the time I was a toddler/preschooler. Like most little girls, I thought my Dad hung the moon and stars. He was my hero.
He wasn’t always like this. We had a typical father/daughter relationship when I was young. He taught me to ride a two wheeler and he fixed my boo-boos when I fell down. He took me to get a new little critter when my beloved pet hamster died. He took me camping and taught me how to roll my sleeping bag properly. Best of all, he loved me and treated me like I was his.
But something changed as the years went on and the alcohol took over. When my parents separated, it shoved that man over the edge as fast as the speed of light. He became bitter. He was angry and my brother and I got the brunt of it…
Fast forward to the evening that my Dad let his tongue loose and said things that damaged my heart. He said the one thing every step child fears the most. Not even my daughter…
I moved out of my Dad’s house the next day and I didn’t speak to him again for almost 10 years. He missed my graduation. He missed my wedding. He missed the birth of my first two sons. He missed my life and I missed my Dad. I spent countless nights crying in my husband’s arms over the loss of my Dad.
He tried to reach out to me once but he was still so deep into his disease that I had to tell him no. I didn’t want my children to have to witness the illness or abuse that I had experienced. It broke my heart, so I prayed. I prayed for him constantly for years.
My brother and I often spoke of how we knew we would get a call someday that Dad was either dead or dying from cancer. That call came in January of 2003. I had made a hasty trip out of town to see my brother. God sent me for a purpose. The next morning we were awakened to an early morning phone call. Dad had stage 4 lung cancer and was dying. The kicker of this? He’d been sober for 3 months and he wanted to see us. Both of us.
I was scared but I trusted God with my whole heart. He had told me to get over the mountain to my brother and I had obeyed Him. My brother and I clung to each other and cried. We cried for the man we loved and had seemingly lost. We cried for what was ahead and the loss that was inevitable. We were going to have to truly say good-bye to him soon.
When our family was all together at a gathering for Dad, he came into the house full of people, looked me in the eye, and said, “Mel, I am so sorry for everything that I have said and done to you in your life. I am truly sorry and I love you.”
I met his gaze, “Dad, that’s all I ever wanted to hear.” And that was the truth.
Now this story doesn’t end here! God’s just getting started. Grab a tissue.
I was able to spend almost 4 months off and on with Dad while he was dying. My husband and I gave him a bible and a bible study on the book of John. When I talked to him on the phone, he’d tell me he was reading his bible and tell me about what he was learning in the book of John. I never pushed, I just let him tell me.
When he stayed with us, we’d invite him to church but he’d always decline and stay behind. We’d go to church and pray for him.
While he was sick, he and my Mom started talking again. His face would just light up talking about his phone calls with her! That was truly a miracle, as you can imagine, they had not been friends or on speaking terms for years.
As his time came nearer to the end, he told me had accepted Christ as his personal savior. Oh how we rejoiced! Not only that but he wanted to be baptized as soon as possible. His sister arranged for her pastor to come to the nursing home and they found a way to completely submerge him in order to baptize him.
Sadly, we missed the baptism by just a few minutes but the glow on his face was something I will never forget. Ever. I have never seen anything like it. He beamed light from every pore of his body – I’ve never believed in auras but there is no other way to explain the light that surrounded him. The joy was astounding!
I stood in awe, staring at a man I thought was lost, not only to me forever but lost from eternity as well. Now here he lay, a new child of God. A new creature. A healed and forgiven man. Once shattered and broken, now completely healed in Christ.
Not only did God save my Dad that day but He saved my heart too. Forgiveness and redemption in the last day of a dying alcoholic. My Father died the very next night. He held out long enough for his full immersion baptism. He came up out of that water flashing the hugest smile ever and giving God a thumbs up!!
Good-bye Daddy! Until we meet again and I am ever so thankful to know that we will indeed!
This was my favorite verse during this time period.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,whohave been called according to his purpose.
Read more of my story at: (In)Courage