Happy birthday, Dad!! It’s been awhile since I’ve written to you, but it’s not because I haven’t been thinking about you. Quite the opposite actually… I think about you all the time. There really isn’t a day that passes without thinking of you. It’s hard to believe that you would have been 64 today. It’s even harder to believe that it’s been nearly 7 years since your passing. 7 years… wow… 7 years… where have the years gone…?
But today is your birthday, and I choose to remember and celebrate all the great times we shared. I always loved your birthday because it usually meant doing something fun, like playing baseball, a weekend get-away to the mountains, a nice steak dinner, and of course a delicious chocolate cake. But you’re not here now, and I’ve found myself celebrating in new ways. Today my wife and I enjoyed a beautiful hike and an afternoon in a quaint, country New York town. (Yeah, I didn’t know those exist either, but they actually do!) It was the kind of day you would have loved.
In writing that last paragraph, perhaps the thing that surprises me the most is that I used the word “celebrating.” For many years I couldn’t really celebrate this day because it was overshadowed by grief that you were no longer hear.
I remember the first birthday after your death. The day felt more like torture than celebration. I was in Texas doing my last fourth year medical school away rotation. I tried doing everything I could to distract myself. I went to a park. I went to Starbucks (I know- I hate Starbucks…). I went to another park. Nothing helped. I tried to celebrate your life because I knew that’s what you would have wanted, but it was hard. The void you left was too big, too glaring, too suffocating. I missed you. A lot…
Now flash forward seven years and I still miss you. As I said before, there’s not a day that goes by without me thinking of you. So much has happened that makes me wish you were here. I’ve graduated medical school. I’ve completed residency. I’m in fellowship and about to embark on a career as an orthopaedic surgeon just like you. I got married. Britt is due with your first grandchild in just a few weeks. All of these things make me feel the void, but there’s something different now. I don’t just feel the void anymore.
When these events happen, I can now celebrate the fact that I am where I am today in large part because of you. I am an orthopaedic surgeon because you inspired me to be like you. I’m married because you encouraged me to grow as a man and to learn from your mistakes. I wouldn’t be where I am without you, Dad. You and mom taught me to persevere, to never give up, to trust in the Lord always and to always serve others before looking out for myself. I’m so blessed to have this foundation. Thank you a million times over.
It may have taken seven years and too many tears to count, but the void no longer has a claim on me or this day. It is finally overpowered by the celebration of your life and the profound impact it has had on mine. I rejoice because through the lens of Christ, I have finally found your presence in the void. Hallelujah a million times over.