Yesterday it was 37 years since my first husband was killed in an accident. He died when the car he was working on fell on top of him and crushed him. My two young daughters came home from school and found him there. Needless to say, it was quite a traumatic experience for them.
All of the events surrounding that day are forever entrenched in my mind. But one memory that still haunts me occurred about six weeks after the funeral.
At the time of his death as I tried to comfort my daughters, my youngest daughter seemed not to really be upset or need any comforting. As family and friends came in for the funeral she enjoyed playing with cousins and friends and appeared to have no sorrow for her father’s death.
At first I thought it was just shock but after the funeral was over and weeks began to pass she still shown no sign of any trauma or sorrow.
I began wondering what kind of daughter I was raising.
Finally, about six weeks later she came to me and asked a question I will never forget.
“Mommy, when will Daddy stop being dead and come home?”
It was then I realized what she had been thinking all this time.
A few months before his death he had injured his back and was in the hospital for almost two weeks. At that time the hospital did not allow young children in the rooms so when I went to see him I would have them stand in the yard just outside his window. He would come to the window and wave at them.
When he was discharged from the hospital we had a party! The girls made a sign “Welcome home Daddy” and we hung it just over the door to the kitchen. We had cake and ice cream and celebrated that Daddy was home with us once again.
At that moment, I realized my young daughter did not understand what “dead” meant. She had apparently thought it was just another injury and that Daddy would be coming home again.
That moment was one of the hardest times of my life.
I sat her down and sadly had to tell her:
“Daddy is dead, Dead means he will never come home again.”
I still remember her face!
Tears swelled up in her eyes and she fell into my arms and cried. Clearly her heart was broken.
No one can measure the trauma and pain both my daughters experienced because of their father’s accidental death. Or the pain I felt seeing them hurting and feeling so inadequate for the task of helping them in this difficult time.
But one thing I learned – and I trust they did too.
Although death – or sometimes divorce or abandonment by a father – can leave us fatherless, we still have a heavenly father who loves and cares for us.
In the months and years ahead I have both experienced that heavenly father’s protection and love for me but also seen His help to my daughters.
I do not pretend to know why my daughters lost their earthly father but I thank God that we have a heavenly father who cares and who helps us when we walk through that valley of the shadow of death – or any other difficult time.
And I praise God that He has given both my daughters a family of their own to love and to have their love.
I also praise God that as a Christian I believe although that little girl’s daddy could not come back home to her – some day she will join him in the new home God has made for them both.
What a great reunion!