I am in the midst of a fantastic celebration in my life. My sisters established 50 days of celebration, leading up to my 50th birthday. I am 18 days to 50 and feel so loved, celebrated, and delighted in.
But tonight my heart holds the ache of wishing we could be preparing for the final details of my Dad’s 80th birthday celebration. The last birthday we celebrated was his 78th, and we didn’t know it would be our final celebration of his life.
My Dad was always up for a good celebration. I believe what he enjoyed the most were those moments of connecting with such a variety of individuals. My Dad knew lots of people from all over the world. One thing I have heard consistently is when he met up with you, no matter who you were, he was genuinely interested in the conversation he was having.
I envisioned the 80th birthday for my Dad over the past years. I looked forward to the gathering of so many different friends from so many walks of life. I looked forward to the stories and the overall delight of 80 years well-lived
But clearly, my Dad did not make it to his 80th birthday. My Dad died in May of 2018 at 78. And so, on his 80th birthday, we are left in the space of remembering, reflecting, and being grateful for his 78 years well lived. As a family, we will gather, we will prepare some of his favorites, we will drink some Southern Comfort, and there may be a cigar lit in his honor. The gathering will be small and the feel will be so different than a festive 80th birthday open house with so many friends and family present.
But the feeling will be one of gratitude.
Gratitude for my Dad’s life, for his marriage to my Mom and the almost 54 years they shared.
Gratitude for his faithfulness and presence in our lives as Dad and Papa.
Gratitude for his leadership and voice in so many different spaces.
Gratitude for the way he left his impact on individuals and organizations.
Gratitude for his passion for the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church around the World.
Gratitude for his convictions for equality and racial reconciliation and justice and for the ways he advocated for unity!
For all the places he traveled and all the people he knew and enjoyed, we are deeply grateful that we called him husband, father, and papa. He had a big presence in our lives, and his absence is felt often. We miss his voice, his prayers, his teasing, his care, his presence, and his wisdom.
We will celebrate and raise a glass to you, Dad. To the day of your birth 80 years ago!
And yet, even with the ache in our hearts, on the 14th of November, 2019, my Dad’s 80th birthday, we remain grateful for all that was, all that remains and all that is still to come.
Blessed Be His Name!