My dad passed away on January 31, 2011 after a short battle with cancer. In the weeks after his death, I continually came across this scripture:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).
In the reading of the word, I was trying to make sense of the relationship I did not have with my father and the pain that I was currently feeling. The source of my pain did not come so much from his death, but from the fact that I did not have the opportunity to really know who my father was. As I sat in his funeral that’s when it really hit me, everyone around me knew my daddy more than I did. They knew his personality, his hobbies, his favorite jokes, and what made him happy or sad. They even had memories of vacations and happy moments I never had the opportunity to share with him. I felt like a stranger at the funeral of the man who created me.
I would travel from Delaware to Philly to visit my dad in the hospital as much as I could and every time that I entered the hospital room; he would look my way and say, “Trina!” as if he was shocked to see me. As if he didn’t expect me to show up – maybe because he failed to show up in my life. I don’t know why things turned out the way they did, but it’s too late to ask my daddy now.
In my youth I spent almost 7 days a week at my church, and believe it or not my dad lived a hop, skip, and a jump away. He literally lived two small blocks away from my church and in all those years he never stopped by on purpose. A few times he would happen to see me and my sister as he rode pass the church while we were outside playing and wave hello, and a couple of times he would stop and talk. Each time he would tell us to walk around to his house the next day to get some money. Each time that we went, he didn’t have the money. It must have hurt him to constantly have to tell us that he didn’t have the money, but I wished he only realized that we only wanted him.
Upon my return from Charlotte, NC in early 2008, I began to see my dad more often. He was the one that kept my old beat-up Nissan Maxima running way past its expiration date. During those times I began to imagine a different relationship with my dad. I wanted to spend more time with him. I thought maybe we could go out sometimes or I could have him over to play with my children, but I never approached the subject. I guess a part of me felt that he was the more grown-up person and he should have been the one reaching out more. Besides, we were all grown now, and nobody could stop him from seeing me.
Fast forward 2 years later, it was my birthday, June 1, 2010, and I received a phone call from my dad. He left a message telling me “Happy Birthday” and that he loved me. I saved that message and I would just re-play it everyone once in a while. After his death, I lost my phone and I would continue to call the voice-mail to listen to that message. One day I realized that I had to let go. I knew that my daddy loved me – I may not have had the best of memories, but I’m glad my dad had the courage to say the one thing that mattered to me the most in life which was “I love you.” I wish I would have taken the opportunity as an adult to know my daddy more and to understand why we didn’t have much of a relationship while I was growing up.
Maybe someone out there has a similar situation, or maybe your daddy was present in your life growing up but was absent in spirit – maybe he was a work-a-holic, an alcoholic, or had another family on the side. Whatever the case, do we really have to wait until the day of Elijah to turn our hearts towards our fathers and have their hearts turned towards ours? Make that first move today to bring reconciliation to your relationship with your daddy. Don’t wait like I did, when it was way too late to have that relationship I always dreamed of.