The story goes that my parents were in the process of deciding whether or not to have another child when God gave them me. My dad was a little reluctant to embrace the idea of a third child (before there actually was one) because he didn’t exactly love the idea of being such an old dad. (My dad retired when I was a senior in high school.)

Personally, I think it all turned out okay. I don’t think anyone in my family gets along better than I got along with my dad. It took me losing and missing my dad for me to realize that I was, and will probably always be, a daddy’s girl.

I had been 20 for almost two months when my dad passed away. I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t have nearly as much time together as I feel we should’ve. There was no official lecture from the former alcoholic in him when I drank my first drop of alcohol at 21. I never got his opinion on who the cutest member of One Direction is when I first started listening to them. Many cheers filled the Ramsey Center when I walked across the stage at my college graduation, but his voice was not among them, proud and booming. He wasn’t there to celebrate with me when I got my first post-graduation job. He wasn’t awake and pacing the first time I came home from attending a concert by myself, and he wasn’t there to listen to the remarkable story I had to tell from it. He’s not here to bounce story ideas off of or to comfort me with one of his priceless, unparalleled talks when I’m down. He’s not here to laugh at my jokes or to watch action movies with or to talk about religion with. And he won’t be there if I ever get married or decide to move away. To this day, I wonder what my dad would think of me. When I make a big decision, I wish I could get his insight. Now I’ll never know his thoughts and opinions for sure, which may be what I hate the most about him being gone.

No, 20 years doesn’t seem like nearly enough. But it’s much longer than many people get with their dads. And those 20 years were high quality. I’d gladly take 20 years filled with love and happiness over, say, 40 years or more filled with abuse and resentment, which is what a lot of people are left with.

The Friday evening before my dad died, Derek and I sat with him in a waiting room before he was admitted to have some tests run. My dad knew he didn’t have much life left in him, and he told me, “Carrie, when you think of me, I hope you smile.”

And how could I not? When I think of my dad, so many beautiful memories come back to me. Helping him and Derek rake leaves as a kid and him watching us jump in the piles. Him fixing Derek and me chocolate milk. Him bouncing me on his knee. Him chasing me playfully through the house. Him teaching me how to play the version of Crazy Eights he learned out in California. The one time he took me to the poolroom. Talking to him about anything and everything over breakfast on Saturdays. Listening to him make up songs about silly little things and sing them around the house. Listening to him play the harmonica as he sat outside. Him coming outside to comfort me and apologize when I walked out after an argument (“Carrie, I can’t stand to hear you cry”). Listening to his stories. Him telling me about a dream he had in which I was a professor and a published author. A two-hour phone call discussing self-forgiveness and seeing God’s love in the tiniest things. His hugs. His laugh. How proud he was of me. How could I think of my dad, who he was and what he means to me, and not smile?

Our relationship was great, but we fought. I inherited my stubbornness and my temper from my dad, which would lead to disagreements and arguments. Even when we didn’t get along, even at our ugliest, we knew we still loved each other and would forgive each other.

My dad and I aren’t the best examples of the father and son in the tale of the Prodigal Son (If I’d asked my dad for my inheritance early, he would’ve laughed loudly in my face and made a joke about giving him the chance to spend it before I got it), but there are some similarities.

I can relate to the son who left (and the son who stayed, but that’s irrelevant here). There were times I thought I knew better than my parents or times I thought I’d be better off on my own, that I could handle it and on top of it all, that it’d be fun. I’ve also done some stupid things in my life, and I’ve had some low points.

While my dad would never give me as much room and ability to make bad decisions and squander his money as the rich man did his kid, he did share the rich man’s love for his kids. Watching and checking the time when waiting for them, and caring enough about them to let them learn things the hard way if no other way. And running to them with love and forgiveness when they finally come around.

That’s just like God. He gave us free will because He loves us, and He loves us still when we use it to make bad choices. Nothing can stop His love or His forgiveness. They never waiver or run out. In a world where so much changes, we can count on God’s heart for us to always stay and to always stay the same.

It really struck me on Sunday that the God who took my dad from me was the exact same God whose embrace brought me comfort through that experience. I could’ve felt mad or betrayed, but I felt loved instead. Because God loved me enough to do what was best for me (and my dad) knowing that it could push me away from Him instead of drawing me closer, and He decided my long-term well-being was worth the risk.

The God who proved His love for me by sending His son to die for me when I was most unworthy continues to prove that same strong love for me. And He does the same for you.

God’s love isn’t always obvious. Regardless, His love is always there. Always. And I dare you to look for it if it’s not evident. A deep love doesn’t always present itself in clear, plain ways. The harder you look for God’s love, the more you’ll see it. It’s like a rose, made in layers, its petals so abundant that they cover each other up. And the more you find God’s love, the more you see it, the farther in love you’ll fall with Him.

By Carrie Prevette

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