I've had this in my drafts for a while, it's what I read at my dad's memorial. I figured Veteran's Day was an appropriate day to post it because it focuses on how he had always been my hero... it brings back sad memories to read over these words again... I miss him so much.
Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has been my hero. I was in awe of him. As far as I was concerned he was the smartest, handsomest, funniest man on the planet.
It wasn't until I got older that I started to notice a pattern. I started paying more attention to the stories the our family and friends told about my dad. People always talked about how he was a stellar athlete, smart, kind, helpful, dedicated... the list goes on and on. What I started to realize, was that I wasn't the only person who looked up to my dad; I wasn't the only person who thought of him as my hero. Former teammates, friends, colleagues, and family all looked up to him for a variety of reasons. In these past weeks my mom and I have received countless emails, letters, CaringBridge comments, and phone calls and all of them have shared the same common message - that my dad was every bit the hero to them as he has been to me for my entire life. I had always thought that my feelings were simply the embodiment of the typical 'daddy's little girl' - I have since realized that it was not simply because he was my dad that I looked up to him as I did, but even more-so because he was the kind of person that everyone admired.
While Derek and I were planning our wedding, my dad was horrified at the cost of my 'dream' wedding. He always was a man who weighed the pros and cons of finances and he could not comprehend how flowers, a cake, or a wedding video could mean so much to me and cost so much. At one point, he made Derek and I an offer. He said that if we would elope and have a small wedding somewhere, he would give us the budgeted money for the wedding as a down payment on our first house. At the time, I was young and totally naive about both the importance of lilies AND the value of a down payment. I chose my dream wedding and even though I don't think he agreed with me at the time - he didn't argue again. For the remainder of the time leading up to the wedding he obligingly wrote the checks as the bills were due and held his tongue - even though I know it was difficult for him. On my wedding night, during our father-daughter dance my dad asked me one question that has stuck with me since. He asked if I was happy. I smiled and laughed and said, "Of course!" He looked at me very seriously and said, "Then it was worth it - every penny."
I learned an important lesson from my dad in that moment - that the memories that we make with the people we love matter more than anything else. I feel like my dad lived his life as an example of that lesson.
Cancer wasn't supposed to happen to my dad. He spent his life being healthy and fit. It wasn't supposed to happen to him... the star quarterback, the Vietnam veteran, the man who
taught me how to ride a bike and shoot a gun, who walked me down the
aisle at my wedding, the man
who had a secret handshake with my baby girl, and wanted nothing more than to throw a football with my son. Cancer stole my dad away too soon - but it can never take away the love, the admiration, and the memories that we made with him, right up until his last days.
There is a verse in the bible that I have relied on during some of the darkest points in my life. This verse comes from Hebrews chapter 6, verse 19. It reads:
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
At various points in my life, I have wondered if God had forgotten me. My plans and hopes for my life weren't coming to pass as I had expected - I was devastated and angry at God for these disappointments. I realize now that this was simply God telling me that he had better and more important plans for my life and this led me to understand the importance of hope. I have discovered that anything is survivable if we are able to hold out hope. Over spring break, during my last visit to see my parents in Arizona, I had an anchor tattooed on my wrist. Later that night, I explained the motivation behind it to my dad. I had hope for the success of his medical treatments and the possibility of remission, and although I didn't say it at the time, I had hope that my dad to come to Christ, to find his faith, and as a result, that even if our time together on Earth was limited - we would be together again in heaven. That hope is was sustains me today - the understanding that even though we are all flawed - my dad and myself certainly included, that we will be welcomed into the gates of heaven as children of God. So today as we say goodbye to this amazing man I feel that it is better for me to think of it as, "see you later".