That first day without you, I couldn’t believe you were gone. I thought it was all a cruel prank my momma and my preacher were playing on me.
That first year, I was really too numb. To get to fall sleep I lied to myself, saying you were just working late and you’d be home in the morning.
The second year was the hardest. Reality hit me like a freight train, I was more miserable than anyone could ever know. My mom was mad at God, and my sisters had already forgot you. I was honestly too afraid of God to be angry with him.
Year three was when I started trying to rationalize your murder. God has some sort of a plan, right? Maybe this would spare you from a slow, painful death. Or a heartbreak. Or maybe your death was not for us, but to help John? Maybe his time in prison would help him turn his life around and be a happier man? I searched and searched, but I couldn’t find an answer that made me happy.
Years four through eleven weren’t any easier. Each year I looked for it to get better, for me to forget, but it never happened. I can’t forget you. I can’t suppress the feelings of wishing you were with me. I wanted to you be at my horse shows. I wanted you to go camping with us. I wanted you to hear the new music that came out, see the change in technology. I wanted you there when I bought my first truck. I wanted you to meet the men I fell for, to give me fatherly advice. I wanted you to tell me my prom dresses were too tight. I wanted you there at my wedding. I wanted you to come back and hold mom, to help her. But you didn’t, and I never stopped wishing for you.
This year though, birthday twelve, things are different. I still miss you every single day. I still feel those awful, brief moments of misery every day. That will never end. But now I’ve found a rationalization, and a blessing that came of your death that I never thought I’d find.
I have a marriage that is different than the type I was originally designed to have. You know how stubborn I am. You know how long I can hold a grudge, and hold onto the ugly that I should let go of. I’m spoiled, and privileged, and I like it that way. With an attitude like that, I was about doomed to have a difficult, and struggling relationship. Devin and I sure aren’t perfect, we have our share of disagreements. I make mistakes, and so does he. But because I know what it’s like to wake up, and have the person you love the most gone. I treat him very differently than I think I would have, had you lived.
All the little things that you and mom used to bicker over, no longer mattered. Who cares if you lost the keys? I’d look for keys all day if it meant you got to stay. I don’t care if the house reeks of the factory you worked at. I don’t care about tripping over your boots. I don’t care if you don’t always want to do what I want to do. That’s nothing. You were what mattered Dad, that little stuff was nothing.
This lesson has carried over into my marriage, Dad, so thank you. I don’t nag at my husband for leaving dirty clothes on the floor. I don’t complain when he leaves the milk out. I don’t hold onto his mistakes. I thank him for every single meal. I thank him when he stays up late with me when I’m sick. I thank him for every little thing I can find to thank him for, because I know how precious he is. I trust him when it comes to decision making. I don’t helicopter over him. When his methods of doing something clash with mine, I step back, and I let him do it his way. At the end of the day, that little stuff doesn’t matter. He does. He is one of the greatest things that’s ever happened to me. Because I already know what it’s like to lose a great man, I now appreciate the one standing in front of me. I love him more now with you gone, than I ever could have with you here.
And don’t worry dad, he treats me so well. He doesn’t walk all over me because I let the petty stuff go. He sees how much I love him, how much I care, and he doesn’t take me for granted. Maybe it’s because I married a guy who is just like you, or maybe it’s because forgiveness and trust brings out the best in us. I don’t know the “why”, but I do know that I’m forever grateful to you for this gift. Thanks, Dad. And happy birthday, I miss you.