Deep inside the hospital, in critical condition, lies the man my wife calls “Daddy.” He is not long for this world. Standing at his bedside in the ICU yesterday, I watched Rachelle spoon broth into his shaking lips, wipe his chin, hold his hand, caring for him with all she had in the dwindling hours left.
I stared at father and daughter through my dull disbelief that the end could be so near. How did we get here? Was it not just a season ago that I was bringing a pot of flowers to this man, asking for his daughter’s hand? Could it be more than a few weeks since he, having watched those flowers multiply, had teased me about the omen for our fertility?
How long ago could it have been that he fed, wiped and cared for that same girl who had stolen his heart, and who grew up to steal mine?
Suddenly she was in tears. Jolted by her sobs, yet relieved to have a job to do, I hugged her while scanning the room for Kleenex. Finally, I unwound a yard of single-ply toilet paper from the restroom marked “For Patients Only,” folding it four times before it was anything like a passable snot rag. Rachelle filled it in two seconds. I returned to the toilet for more.
As I rolled out TP—the sole offering I could give my broken-hearted soul mate—my mind fluttered. We had seen it coming. We had hoped he would take better care of himself. He knew better. We hadn’t talked about it with him all that often, knowing it would likely as not make him more stubborn in challenging fate. But he knew. In fact, it could have been ending more slowly and painfully than this. It was actually merciful. And suddenly, through my righteous rationalism, a rogue thought bored its way in: A little girl is losing her Daddy.
In the room, she was pressing her forehead into his. “I love you, Daddy,” she said.
“I love you,” his trembling mouth managed to say.
I noticed that this day would come for me. My dreams, ambitions, hoping, working and tail-chasing would someday get me the same place they get all men—on my back, dying. I could only hope that whatever my flaws—and my sons-in-law will have as easy a time seeing mine as I see his—I might raise my little girls to have half the love and goodness that this daughter of his has. I could only pray that despite all the reasons not to love me, on the day they tell me goodbye, they will choose to love me anyway.
Because Dad, whatever you have to show after your years of toil, as many or as few trophies for your work in the world, however fleeting or misunderstood your life may have seemed to you, it is enough if you have this one thing: your little girl there with her hair on your neck, declaring her love to you.
God, give him grace to feel the love that he has added to the world. May he sense through this somnolent fog just how much Rachelle loves him. May be know through her something of how much You love him.