The night of January 28, 2016 was the last I would ever spend in the house I grew up in. That night as I slept in my sleeping bag on the floor of my empty bedroom, I had a dream. I was being dropped off somewhere and had forgotten my phone charger in my dad’s car, so he brought it back to me. He was tall, strong, and healthy. I ran to him, threw my arms around him and said, “You’re back! I missed you.”
On January 29 I woke up to say goodbye to each room in 720 Westshore. I went down to the river in the backyard and watched the DuPage flow by one last time. I never imagined I’d close on a house before I turned 23. As I sat by the river that morning, I thought of my dream and how everything in real life had went wrong, so far from what it should have been.
My dad was a great father who carried me on his shoulders, sang “My Girl” to me, and truly believed I could do anything I put my mind to. It’s surprisingly easy to declare that I had a fantastic dad, because my good memories are split by the fact that my dad was an alcoholic.
I was told dozens of times that “God doesn’t rebuild, He resurrects.” I waited for the resurrection for many years. Yet police calls, hospital visits, and words I wish I could forget all point back to a time when the stress had cut me so deeply that I couldn’t even stand. At the end of one summer, I packed my car, drove to Minnesota blasting “New Strings” by Miranda Lambert, and vowed to never again live in my home state.
Three years later, I saw my dad for the last time. The sight of him in a wheelchair is a sight I know will haunt me for years; he was so weak, ravaged from years of alcohol abuse, and far from the dad I looked up to as a girl. I couldn’t even hug him or say goodbye. I drove home, laced up my shoes with shaky hands, and sprinted out the emotion and indescribable anger at the devil for how he destroyed my father.
Just thirty days later, my dad died. I ran outside and knelt down in the grass with my head in my hands. I had one thought: it’s over. I felt like a character in a war movie watching the last of the enemy planes fly into the distance.
Never again would I have to see that shell of my dad in the wheelchair. Never again would I pour his alcohol down the drain or stand between him and the door, . . . but never again would we bike by the lake in Chicago. Never again would we eat our favorite Buddy’s Pizza together or shoot hoops in the driveway.
In the following days, I calmly picked out a casket, a headstone, and a gravesite. I emptied my entire checking account to pay for his burial. I shook the hands of members of his old congregation and sat in the front row and cried the entire funeral.
At age 13, I thought that God would resurrect my dad, yet my dad’s addiction worsened. As I sprinted on that service road by the water tower just weeks before he died, it seemed as though the devil had won a long struggle.
At the funeral, the pastor preached on Romans 8:38-39:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Yes, my dad was dead. But the moment he died he was freed from all of his pain, his sorrow, his failures. He now lives on as the dad in my dream. God’s love never let go of him, and I praise God that he was a man of faith and fought his fight until his last breath in his bed. God resurrected, but the resurrection He did was not one of this world.
Seven months later, I still sometimes sob on the kitchen floor. I will always cry in the middle of Target in June when I see Father’s Day cards I can’t buy. Yet I am spurred on when I think of how much my dad trusted me, how much he believed in me, and how much he loved me.
God’s love never let go of my dad, and even though he is gone, somehow I know that my dad’s love will never let go of me.