There are days that by nature induce more reflection. Father’s Day has become one of those for me. Honestly, it was a day I somewhat took for granted. We had our annual ritual of making cards, going to lunch and ensuring daddy was overwhelmed with attention. Sometimes I wonder what we’d have done differently had we known 2013 was our last chance to honor your daddy on Father’s Day. Perhaps the ritual would have altered, perhaps not. After all, it was a good ritual and I do not doubt he knew he was loved.

On past Father’s Days, long before your loss, I have thought of those children with no father, whether due to death or choice, and those men with no children. For many years your father and I wanted badly to have a child and were told we couldn’t. I understand this holiday from that perspective. Yet I do not truly understand it from yours. I do not know what it is to grow up without a father.

As you know, we do not often get to choose our lot in life. Whether we have a good father or an absent father or no father; this is outside of our control. How you handle life’s challenges, however, is very much within your control. Your circumstances, the good and the ugly, shape you for today and ready you for tomorrow. It is up to you to choose how to respond. I implore you to let this shape you for good. Learn from it. Internalize it and let it drive you to a better you. It does not mean you cannot ache for the old. It simply means you cannot stay there, in the pain of it. How easy it is to find joy when life is good but to find it when life is tough – that is a gift.

I often think of your father. He understood. He holds the answers I do not. He lost his own parents at a young age and never stopped missing them. We had many conversations about how he longed to share life with them. Much the same thoughts that you have I’m sure. From watching him I know there are times that will hurt more. There are joyous occasions that will feel as if something is missing. Nonetheless your father grew into a strong man: loving God, loving his neighbor, loving his wife and especially loving his girls despite (or maybe because of) his circumstances.

I pray, you will catch a glimpse of it again. You will watch your own husband father your children. You will experience an earthly father through their laughter and joy. Until then hold onto your memories both happy and sad. Look to the father figures that God has placed in your life through your grandfather and uncles and other means. Yet, above all, keep your eyes on Christ, your Heavenly Father. That is where your inner strength will come from. It is not from me or your father or any individual.

One day (please Lord let it be many years from now) you will walk through the gates of heaven not only into the arms of your Heavenly Father but once again into the arms of the earthly. For now there will be hard days and easy. There will be seasons of sun and seasons of rain. Live and love as if each day is your last, as if each moment matters. Always take note of others around you, love them, encourage them and radiate God’s glory.

What was good about your father already lives within you. Cherish it, foster it and you will grow into the women that God has called you to be.

I see him in each of you: in your smile or the words you say. I see him in a twinkle of your eye or a tear shed. He would be so proud of you – as am I!