My Father in Heaven

Monday marks the second anniversary of my dad’s passing.  It’s been two years, and even writing that first sentence still takes my breath away.  Two years later, and I still can’t believe he is gone.

I don’t write about my dad often.  At least, not his passing, anyway.  I don’t really talk about it much either.  I still mention him in every day conversations, the way anyone mentions their parents from time to time.  “My dad used to…” or “My dad loved…”  I talk to the kids a lot about him, too.  I tell them funny stories about him, or when they do something that Dad used to do – like eating waffles with peanut butter on them – I always tell them about how Granddad used to do that, too.  My family in general still continues to talk about Dad openly and often.  It isn’t uncommon to hear things like, “Dad would have hated that!” or “Doesn’t that sound like something Dad would have loved?” in our conversations as we easily roll from topic to topic.

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But very seldom anymore do I talk specifically about life without him.  I try not to dwell in that place because nothing happens there but sadness.  I can’t change the fact that my dad isn’t here with us anymore, so why focus on that?  But sometimes, the enormity of that absence presses in on me and it literally feels like I can’t breathe.  Those moments usually come when I have forgotten Dad has died for some reason.  I can’t tell you how many times I still pick up my phone to call him.  Two years later.  Those times take my breath away and, though I usually swallow the lump in my throat and move on, sometimes I let that wave of grief wash over me and I have myself a good, long cry.

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In the first year without him, I think my sadness came from the fact that I had lost someone.  That WE had lost someone.  It was the impact on our lives that brought the sadness then.  But in the second year without Dad, I notice more often than not that the sadness comes from knowing my dad would have loved to still be here.  I know that he is in a better place, waiting for us, but we will have special things here – like Michael starting kindergarten, signing Gracie up for ballet lessons, and the happy second baby for my sister’s family – that he would have really just loved.  And the tears that those events bring are not for my own loss, but for his.

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About two weeks ago, it was the middle of the night.  I wasn’t sleeping well and was in that half sleep and half wake state when my bedroom door opened and my dad walked in.  I remember looking immediately to Chris, not sure if I should wake him up or not, and Dad put his finger to his lips, indicating we should be quiet.  And then he walked over to my side of the bed where I was sitting and he sat down next to me.  He patted my knee and he whispered, “Hello, Katie Girl,” like he always had.

He looked thinner, younger.  Well rested.  And happy.  Mostly, he looked like himself.

July 10, 2011 - Tybee Island

I don’t remember saying anything myself, but my dad spoke to me as if he heard everything I was thinking.  We talked about Michael starting kindergarten and about what a spitfire Gracie had become.  We talked about my job and some of the new responsibility I am taking on there. He looked over at Chris and told me how lucky I was to have him and how thankful he was that Chris was here to take care of me.  I am not sure how long we sat there whispering, but the last thing he said to me was, “I am so proud of you, Katie Girl.  Your whole life makes me so proud.”  And he hugged me.  I could smell the golf course on him and feel the crinkle of his favorite navy blue windbreaker.  We sat there for a moment or two, he kissed me on my cheek, and then just as simply as he had walked in, he stood and walked out of the room.

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The next morning when I woke up, I remembered every detail of our visit and I began to cry. It was unsettling to have been so close to him again, and it took me several days to let that wave of emotion pass.

I am not sure if it was a dream, or an angel, or my dad.  I believe that the Divine sometimes has no explanation, and I’m okay with not knowing exactly what happened.  But what I do know is that in that one conversation, I understood that my dad was not missing out on anything.  He wasn’t sad or lonely without us because he is not without us.  He knew everything that was going on in my life, as if he had seen it all happen.

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I don’t really understand Heaven.  I’ve read the Bible, but I’m not sure what happens there.  I don’t know what we experience or the degree to which we are separated from our loved ones here on earth.  I think we all have different ideas about that.  I used to think Heaven was a physical barrier between those who were with God and those who were here on earth.  I didn’t believe my dad was looking down on us from above.  I believed that Heaven was so wonderful and the power of God’s love was so beautiful that once we experienced that, we never looked back.  People often said to me after Dad died, “I know he is looking down on you” or “I know he is here with you,” and I would silently think to myself, “No, he isn’t,” because I believed he had gone on to a place where I could not follow.

It actually made me angry a little bit.  That God would give us these extraordinary people in our lives and then when he took them away, they just went ahead and we were left here without them, as if none of it had been important at all.  But seeing my dad in whatever form that was that night – dream, vision, wishful thinking – has made me reconsider Heaven.  Perhaps it isn’t so far away after all.  Perhaps Heaven doesn’t supersede or diminish the joy that we experience here on earth.

Maybe Heaven is a place where joy and love come from all different places – whether it is the glory of God or an early morning on a golf course or in watching your family go on without you.  And I find it incredibly comforting to know that my dad’s place of joy, even there sitting next to our Glorious Lord, still comes from his family.

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25 thoughts on “My Father in Heaven

  1. Katie, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. I am so glad that you were able to have that experience, whatever the explanation, and feel that your dad is aware and proud of all of you. My fiancé lost his dad 4 months after your dad passed away, and it has been a blessing to me to hear your experiences and understand some more of what Rob is dealing with as he goes through this process. We are about to get married in November, and it is sad for us that his dad will not be there. But I hope that in some way, he does know and is equally proud of Rob as your father is of you. Thank you for opening your life to us in this way.

  2. Trish D

    Beautifully said! My dad passed away 20 years ago and I miss him as much today as the day he passed away. Dad has come to me a few times in my dreams and I’m like you…I don’t know if it was a dream or not…I just take these visits as gifts.

  3. HollyT

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m going on over 11 years since my Dad’s passing and my emotions are so similar to yours. What I would give for a nighttime visit from my dad!

  4. Wow Katie! What a beautiful post. It brought tears to my eyes. I’ve read your blog for a long time and have followed along in your life through all of the experiences (good, bad, sad) that you have been through. Reading about your relationship with your dad, how his passing has affected your life, and how you are rejoicing in his life is so inspiring to me. You are one strong lady and I’ve learned a lot from you. I believe I’ve had an experince like yours with a good friend who passes while I was in college. Heaven is definitely closer than we think. Big hugs girl!!

  5. Jody

    Oh boy, this hit me right in the feels Katie. My Dad has been gone a short 5 months now and although I don’t pick up the phone to phone him, I am still in the grief period of thinking about what he’s missing. I thank you for putting it so eloquently, I’m so glad you were given such comfort from him in your dream/wakeful/vision thingy.

    We won’t ever get over losing them, but we will pull through, right?

  6. Katie, you’ve moved me to tears. We lost my dad 3 1/2 years ago. I don’t think I will ever get over it because I’ll never stop missing him. The part where you describe him walking in to your room in the night and then the feeling you had when you woke up gave me chills and made me wish I could have the same kind of dream — whenever I do I never want it to end. My dad loved to golf too and had a favorite blue wind breaker also, thought that was a neat coincidence. What got me most was when you said “I notice more often than not that the sadness comes from knowing my dad would have loved to still be here.” that’s what makes me cry most often — when we’re happy experiencing something or watching our son grow and I think about how unfair it is that my dad isn’t here to experience something that would have brought him so much JOY!!

  7. katie M

    Thanks for sharing an emotionally vulnerable time between you and your daddy

  8. I am not sure how anyone knows this for sure, but I read once that if you dream about someone that has passed away, that is actually them coming for a visit.

    Very moving.

    Thank you for sharing. If anything it gives me comfort to know that just maybe my Grandma is also watching over me & my daughter.

  9. Becky

    You are such an amazing woman, wife, mother, and daughter .. I’m glad you’re Dad had another opportunity tell you that too. 🙂

  10. Valerie

    Beautiful post!

  11. Katie, you are just such a sweetheart and I so appreciate you sharing all of this, even though it always makes me cry! Is it weird that I was at the Train concert last night he tells us that one of the songs is about those who have left us and one of the things that comes to my mind is you and your dad? Hopefully I have a long while before I have to experience the loss of my dad, but your posts on this will definitely help me through it!

  12. Jo Elyn Landers

    Thank you Katie for sharing this. My husband passed away 2 months ago from Early Onset Alzhemier’s. He was 55. I am 54 and now a widow. This is exactly what I needed to read at this moment in time.
    Thank you.
    Jo Elyn Landers

  13. This brought tears to my eyes. It is such a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Katie and Ginny's Mom

    Such a poignant and sweet post, Kate. You and your sister were the stars in your dad’s eyes and his pride in both of you was enormous. I see so much of him in you and your sister, especially your commitment to your families. He always said the two of you were his greatest accomplishment in life. Love and hugs to you on this sad day. -Mom

  15. Suzanne

    Katie,

    I’m praying for you and your family in this. This post is so sweet and heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time. Thank you for sharing with us.

  16. Oh, Katie. This made me so happy for you. I am so happy you had this experience. I have never doubted that our loved ones are always near us, now I hope you do not doubt it either.

  17. What a courageous post to write… I love that your dad came to visit you. That you were able to have one more conversation with him. What a precious gift!

  18. Michelle

    Great, now I’m crying at my desk at work.
    Thank you for sharing this- I very much understand what you’re talking about with that kind of experience. It is vividly real but you can never really tell if it’s a dream or not; it always seems to happen when you’re asleep or barely asleep. I was very close to my uncle who passed away suddenly four years ago. I miss him terribly- he was my mentor and my compass- I could go to him with things that were troubling me and he always knew how to talk them through with me and bring me around to where I had a clearer head on how to best proceed from there. He was unique in my family for his ability to do that and my life is much more empty without him.
    But I often have “dreams” at night, where I visit with him and it’s like old times- we talk about everything that has been going on in my life and catch up and it’s like he never left. But waking up from those is so hard- it’s like ripping open a healed wound and hurts all over again. I’m thankful for them- whether they’re dreams or not, I feel blessed to have the ability to speak with him still.

    It always reminds me of this quote from Peter Pan:

    “You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

  19. vicky

    Thank you for sharing. So beautifully written. I also lost my dad last year. I was never religious or spiritual until he visited me. The first time at home, another time while I was travelling for work. Sometimes I feel his hand on my shoulder. At first I was shy to tell people, but now I don’t have doubts about it being real. Cherish it.

  20. jenny-bird

    Oh, Katie. Even fourteen years after my father died I still feel sad that he isn’t here to see me now that I’ve grown up and will soon become a mother. I’m so glad to hear that you have found some peace. Much love to you and your family.

  21. Jenny M.

    Thank you for posting this! I just turned 32 and my Dad passed away three months ago at the age of 62 from an out of the blue heart attack with no warning signs. It’s still new for myself and my family and we are still trying to navigate life without him here physically but it makes me feel good (even though this an awful situation for you/your family and for me/my family) to hear that after 2 years you still talk about your Dad, that you believe that he is still with you, knows what’s going on in your life and is still a part of your life. Everything about this post is comforting to me and gives me hope so I want to thank you very much!

  22. Jenna

    Oh my goodness. I don’t really have words to explain how this touched me. Thank you for sharing and I love that you had that experience with your dad.

  23. Shannon Phillips

    What a beautiful post! It gives me chills because…. you had a visitation and that is beautiful. How do I know? I had one from my grandmother that overwhelmed me for so long. I shared it with my parents who knew what it was. It was not a dream. My grandmother used to say that only those who are open to such a spiritual experience can have one. And that is true. I can tell you my grief was different after that experience. I understood something and it took anger out of my grief. Heaven is for real, and loved ones never stop loving us. Your Dad obviously thought you needed that visit. God Bless you!!! Shannon P.

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