Late this afternoon I gave away my only daughter in marriage. It was hard walking her down the asile. And she was so beautiful.
And it was even harder at the wedding reception, preparing for the final father-daughter dance. Here’s what I said to my daughter as I asked her for this last dance.
Rachel, you were my Special Angel, a nickname I attached to you when you were just a little girl.
You were the one who would spend hours with me in the evenings, quietly reading your arm-load of books, camped under my work table as I labored-away on my computer. More than once you would fall asleep under that table, amongst the scattered books. I would have to gather you up to carry you to bed.
You were special.
You were the one who would make me promise… PROMISE… to wake you up before I would leave the house on the many Monday mornings at 5am to catch the first flight out. In the early morning darkness I would tap on your door and quietly call out your name. Five minutes later you would come padding down… doll and blanket in tow… and silently watch me finish my breakfast. Then, as I picked up my bag and headed out the back door, you would move to the front door. And as I backed the car out of the driveway, I would spy my Special Angel, illuminated by the porch light, standing there inside the glass front door. I would blink my headlights… you would raise your hand… and I would slowly drive away for yet another week of out-of-town work.
You were special.
How many thousands of times did we have bed-time prayers together? The routine was this: I would be working in my office on the computer. I would hear you brush your teeth. Next, the bathroom light switches off. A few moments later there is the gentle rustling of blankets and such as you get into bed and arrange your pillows and dolls. And finally, there’s the sound of the bedroom light switching off. All is now quiet. Then I hear a little voice calling out for me… “Dad… I’m ready”. That was my signal. I would pause from my work and climb the stairs to your room. In the darkness, I would kneel down beside your bed and we’d have our prayer time together.
But as you grew up and moved into your later teen years, you sorta outgrew bed-time prayers thing with your dad. High-school, busy-ness, activities… growing from a little girl into a young woman.
But there was to be one more time… and of the thousands of times we had bed-time prayer together as you were growing up, this very last one is the one that is burned into my memory:
You were moving away. You were all packed up. You were leaving home the next morning to start college – hundreds of miles away. I think we both sensed that a chapter in our lives was ending.
That last night… before you were to leave home… as I worked at my computer, I heard you brushing your teeth. The bathroom light snaps off. The rustling sounds of you getting into bed. The bedroom light turning off. Quiet. I sit there at my computer. Thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness to God for bringing us to the end of this life’s chapter, but mixed in with a bit of sadness. I think back to the years of our bed-time prayers together, and how that routine thing now seemed so much more precious in the years since it had ended.
But there was to be this one last time. From the quietness, I hear your voice call out, just as it did some years before as a younger, littler girl… “Dad. I’m ready.” I climbed the stairs to your room, I’m glad it’s dark because tears are filling my eyes. That final bed-time prayer with my special angel, me weeping in the darkness… I will never forget.
Finally, I believe God’s hand has touched your life.
You were probably six or seven. We guys were all at the softball field for a game in our men’s church league. It was a hot, muggy summer evening. The men were loosening up… stretching, playing catch, taking practice swings.
As you stand there watching, I suddenly feel compelled to take three steps forward to stand between you and a player taking cuts with a baseball bat some distance away. Step… step… and on the third one, as I step in front of you, the bat slips from his grip and shoots through the air, barrel first. It strikes me in the thigh on that third step. We all jump back, everybody looks.
I think we probably went on to lose that game. And what everybody thought that evening was that our record was not getting any better and, oh yeah, Nate will probably wake up tomorrow with a nice-sized bruise on his thigh. But nobody saw what really happened that evening, and I didn’t say anything. I filed this away in my heart. Because I believed that on that hot, muggy summer evening, that I witnessed the Hand of God in and on your life… the barrel-end of that flying bat was thigh-high on me, but would have been forehead high on you.
God is good. And you are special. God’s hand is on you and Eric.
So, here we are this evening. I gave you away a couple hours ago. But will you dance with your dad this one last time?
Update: pics thanks to Remi Bowers, Sandy Felzer
Update: watching this advertisement brings back a small measure of the feelings I had that day… Nate.