CPN | A Father’s Message at 3 years – 3 months – 16 days

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A Father’s Message at 3 years – 3 months – 16 days

According to a variety of sources, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day was established as a special opportunity to demonstrate respect and honor for the fathers in our lives, the work that they do, and the support that they provide well beyond anything financially.

I have been a father for 29 years, and throughout my journey have found that on Father’s Day, despite what TV commercials lead you to believe, I do not find myself excited about new ties, tools, or recliners.

It is true that a message of appreciation, gratitude and hopefully, a sense of love, is received from our children.  However, my greater focus is quite contrary to receiving anything material.  My sense of gratitude is amplified on Father’s Day.  In addition to appreciation for my own father, who I lost in 2022, I feel an incredible level of appreciation for the gift of my four children.  I think of each of them daily throughout the year; but on this special day, I cannot help but feel a richer sense of the gift that I have been given when they entered my life.  To hold them in my hands as they were born, to be a part of nurturing and teaching them, to pass down skills and knowledge acquired from my journey, parents, and mentors, to share experiences with them, to be a part of their daily lives as they grew from funny little ones to serious, curious, and thoughtful adults.  Each of them has been and continues to be a blessing and gift in my life.

Unfortunately, I believe that much of society – at least the commercial part –  diminishes the emotional connection that most fathers feel towards their children.  For many of us, we feel a deeply rooted bond to our children, and despite seemingly gritty exteriors or tepid emotional expressions, we love and cherish our children beyond what any words can adequately convey.  As we mature from boys to men and begin our fatherhood journeys, we shift from a “me” focus to a “them” perspective – anything for our children.  Beyond our daily efforts to provide, teach, and nurture, most fathers would sacrifice their lives for their children without hesitation.

So, understand, for those of us fathers that have lost a child, the pain that we feel daily is far deeper than what you are likely to see on our face or hear in our words.  Society expects men to mask their pain, process their grief quietly and in solitude, to step up and carry on.  While you will see us persevering, it is imperative to recognize that when a father loses a child a part of him dies as well, just as it does with the mother.  In addition to feeling the loss, we also carry a tremendous sense of guilt because we “failed” to protect our child -regardless of the circumstances.  As men, we fathers feel an innate sense that it is our absolute duty to shield and protect our children as they grow to adults.  When we lose them too soon in their life journey, we cannot help but feel like we have failed them.

Father’s Day 2024 marks 3 years, 3 months, and 16 days since I sat with my daughter Faith as she took her last breath just two weeks past her 18th birthday.   Despite the passage of time, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her, some days with smiles, most days with tears.

I cherish my four children and love to see my other three growing, finding their way through life with mistakes and successes, each of them embracing their own paths; and I wonder…

What would Faith be doing now?

Where would she be?

What challenges would she be facing, and experiences would she be having?

What would she look like as she continued to mature?

I am fortunate that I can continue to watch my other three live their lives and to be a small part of that occasionally; AND I miss the one, Faith, deeply. It is a constant sense of contradictory feelings — happy that your remaining children are thriving, while deeply saddened and aching for the one that has passed.  I continue to grow in how I carry my grief of losing Faith.  I accept that I am blessed with continuing to witness my other children move through life, and I will always miss her. There is no “getting used to it”, no moving past it, and time does not heal such a wound.

So, as you approach and celebrate Father’s Day each year, please remember that while a gift card to Home Depot may be swell, please also be generous with the thoughts, words, and feelings that you share with the varying fathers in your life.  Take the time to remember that their love for you as a child, or those children in your life, is very likely far greater than what you understand on the surface.  Know that beyond assembling toys, working long hours, coaching, or being Uber Dad, that man loves you or those children so deeply they would give their life to provide protection.  If the father you know has lost a child, remember that every day, and especially on Father’s Day, they carry a deep burning pain, wishing they could get that goofy Father’s Day card, a simple “Love you Dad” text, a warm hug, or butterfly kiss on the cheek from the one they lost.  Respect this weight that they carry and acknowledge it.