The one who stayed (a letter to my husband)

Yesterday, I watched you be the sacrificial, generously loving father that I so greatly admire. First of all, on a day when we were celebrating YOU, you thought of him…the father who first filled the role of dad to our little ones. We reached out to check on him – to see if we might be able to work out a last-minute meeting. He was so glad to hear from us…missing the kids like crazy. Having no car meant that he could not join us at the park, so we went to the store where he already was & we met at the front.

The reception was different than normal. He was more distracted, less present, and clearly emotional. Bad timing, he mentioned after hugging the kids. Red faced, eyes blinking back pain, he approached and withdrew a few times, clearly struggling. “Did my mom tell you? We lost the baby,” he managed to mumble. I tried to communicate empathy without words, but he could not hold the eye contact long enough…could not bear to see or be seen. My mind swirled with grief for him as we stood there awkwardly together in the midst of shoppers. Father’s Day weekend, the loss of the unborn, a broken man looking at the faces of the children he surrendered four years prior…so. much. grief.  With a few words and some small gestures, we determined that it was all too much. Then, you stepped in for him. Again. You have stepped in for him in countless ways over the past six years, and my tears overwhelm me when I think about them all. You quickly redirected us to the exhibit the kids had been wanting to see. You cheerfully encouraged them to go check it out, and as we walked away, you stayed.

Baby, that’s been your gift to me and to our kids for as long as I can remember. You have staying power: the surrender of self; the compassion, love, and grit that says I will not be moved. You stand by us and give us the reassurance that only your presence can bring – no matter what. Years ago, he needed you to stay – to become Daddy to his children – to be the man he wishes he could be, and you did. You are. Yesterday, though he did not have the words to say it, he needed you to stay, and you did. Again. 

We walked on, encouraging young minds to enjoy the sites, to forget the odd interactions they had just experienced. We surrounded them with “normal” to help ease the complication, and they rolled with it as always. In the meantime, you were offering him reassurance with your presence, as you so often do for us. He told you of his shame – scrambled stories filled with guilt and grief…using again. He thought he could do this, but he could not. He wanted to see them, but he had committed to never let them see him like this. He regretted that he could not stay. You gave him freedom to stand back, to watch from afar and join us if he felt comfortable to do so. He tried. He nervously came near a time or two, but ultimately, gave little man a quick “bye’ and left. But you stayed. You stayed where you always do: right by our sides. Firm and dependable.

When our parenthood is shared with mothers and fathers who’ve lost out on so much of our precious children’s lives, there is a weight that accompanies celebrations like today. At the same time, there is a weight of responsibility to honor those roles as well, and you, my man, have an amazing ability to give grace and honor to the hurting among us. I pray the Lord will use your gesture of love, your kindness and gentleness yesterday, to draw him to Jesus. Thank you for staying with him, with me, with us. My heart is blessed by how beautifully you love others. You may not be perfect, but you are the Daddy our children need –  a gift to us all. I love you!