Today would be your 54th birthday. It has been more than nine months since I said goodbye to you, my closest friend in life. I miss you more and more each day. For the first time since January, I listened to a recording of your voice. Why I have waited this long, I am not sure. At one point, you told me that there was no one you would rather spend time with than me. Oh, what I would give to spend just a few moments with you, to watch one more episode of the Office or a college football game with you, to hear you laugh and tell jokes, to see you smile at me and tell me that you love me with all your heart.
This journey of discovering how to live life without your physical presence has been far from easy. I know it’s not supposed to be easy when you love someone so much, but my goodness, it’s been rough. There have been so many days that have been quite emotionally painful. I miss being able to call you and tell you how my day is going. I am thankful beyond measure to be able to call my Nana and BigDaddy, but I wish I could call you too. Last night, as I cleaned the church while listening to my iPod, I broke down in tears as I listened to Richard Smallwood sing, “The Center of My Joy,” and I couldn’t help but sing at the top of my lungs and fall to my knees when listening to “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. I am eternally grateful to you for impressing upon me to have such a strong faith in our Heavenly Father who watches over us. He is the center of my joy and I can only imagine what it will be like when I can see you again, but more importantly, when I can see the face of Christ Jesus. I cannot wait for the day.
We made so many memories together, memories that I have thought about a lot lately. I remember fondly our road trips to the Grand Canyon in 2016 and to Virginia for the Division III Football National Championship in 2017, travelling through the Deep South while listening to the iPod that Mr. Barber kindly loaned us. My favorite was the album by Huey Lewis and the News. I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back in time and visit you, even if just for a moment. I wish we could drive through the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia again or take the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or perhaps just simply watch a football game together as we cheer every touchdown and yell about every fumble or interception.
We loved binge-watching shows together such as Star Trek: Voyager, Speechless, and the Office. During quarantine, I introduced myself to Parks and Rec and the West Wing, two shows I know you would have liked too. So many things we used to do together just doesn’t seem the same without you. I miss you more than words can say.
These past 365 days have been challenging. Just a few days before your birthday last year, I had so much planned for an awesome weekend of just the two of us guys hanging out together. I was going to come home Thursday night, we would spend Friday, your birthday, at the doctor’s office (meh), but then treat ourselves to perhaps some Bush’s Chicken. Saturday, we were going to watch the Red River Showdown between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners before watching the Baylor Bears take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Then, on Sunday, I was going to take you with me to Seventh and James so that you could visit the church I had fallen in love with in Waco and meet some amazing people I worshipped with each Sunday. We would top the day off with lunch at On the Border, our favorite place to eat in Waco. It was going to be a blast!
But as you know, it didn’t work out that way. Your birthday ended with us in a hospital room. We still watched some football together, cheering on the Longhorns even though they couldn’t pull it off (Shucks! And they didn’t this year either. Double shucks!) as you laid in your hospital bed. That Saturday, October 12, 2019 would become one of the most difficult days of my life as the doctor sat next to me and suggested that we consider end-of-life care. That’s not the weekend I had planned. I was shocked. I was heartbroken that the strongest, most fearless, hardest working, most Godly man I knew was nearing the end of his life. The following two and a half months was a roller coaster of emotions. Then, joined by our amazing friends, Karen and Adolph, our family told you farewell as you departed your earthly home for an eternal heavenly one on Christmas Eve.
In the days, weeks, and months after, so many friends and family have encouraged me and have taken care of me. Nana checks up on me every day and I have so many friends in Waco and elsewhere who bring me so much joy even in moments of deep pain and sadness. There is so much I wanted to experience with you. I wanted you to see me graduate from seminary, preach from a pulpit, fall in love and get married (you were supposed to officiate the ceremony), and spoil your future grandkids. I still take comfort in words you spoke to me nearly a year ago. You told me that in one form or another, you would be at my wedding. I know that in spirit, you will be there just as you are with me now as I type this blog post.
Grief is challenging, daunting, nerve-racking, and depressing. Quite frankly, it sucks. I don’t like it one bit. But I take joy in knowing that you are in Heaven with Christ Jesus, free from the pain and sickness of cancer. Death did not have the final say, eternal life did. You beat cancer. So, while I continue to grieve, I will also celebrate and wish you a wonderful birthday, your first in Heaven. Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you, with all my heart, beyond description. Until we meet again, see you later, Superman!
Center of My Joy by Richard Smallwood
I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me