“If you lose a parent at an early age it feels like you’re losing them again at every milestone.” -Unknown
I was in the throes of wedding planning when I finally sat down to watch Kim’s Fairytale Wedding in early fall. (Had I waited just a few more days, she would have been divorced before I had a chance to watch the wedding!)
Although, I don’t believe reality shows are real, there was something real about the part of that famous episode when Kim talks to her stepdad, Bruce Jenner, about her father, Robert Kardashian, passing away when she was 23 and therefore not being there for her big day. “I just wish my dad was here to see it all,” she said.
I was also 23 when my dad passed away suddenly and tragically ten days after attending my college graduation. I was out of town at the time he passed and to say I was utterly devastated when I got that phone call is an understatement.
I can’t speak on the relationship that fathers have with daughters, only the relationship that I had with my own. Though my dad was not perfect, he was the stereotypical dad in that he really took care of me. When he passed away, a part of me left with him. My feeling of invincibility; my innocence; and my sense of perpetual safety and control evaporated. In one heart-wrenching moment, I was made painfully aware that awful things happen to good people.
Since then, by the sheer grace and overwhelming blessing of God, I have made it and I continue to make it every single day.
I don’t acknowledge God flippantly as someone who only chooses to do so after winning an Oscar. When my dad passed away, I moved out of his house and across town to a small apartment next door to my church because I knew that Jesus was the only person who could get me out of bed every day. My mom (whom I am incredibly close to) lives in a different state; I had spent the last four years at a college in a different city and therefore, didn’t have a bunch of friends at home; I was between boyfriends; and my sister was dealing with the situation in her own way. I didn’t really have anybody and I could have felt very alone.
I say “could have” because I didn’t. God was with me every single, solitary step of the way. I am now confident that my safety lies in Him. And though bad things happen to good people, He showed me that He can turn what breaks me down into what ultimately brings me higher. I refused to be a victim because I’m not. I have a Heavenly Father who looks out for me in ways that my earthly father never could.
About a year after my dad passed away, I started dating a man who I wished I had been dating all along. I like to say he is God’s personal gift to me. He is my best friend. We are getting married in a few weeks and it breaks my heart that my dad didn’t get to meet the man I will marry. It’s just so weird planning this huge event in my life and my dad, who would definitely be involved, not being here.
One of the things I had to decide when planning the ceremony portion was “Who is going to walk me down the aisle.” At first the answer was easy: Nobody. I felt that my dad passed away leaving me to fend for myself and I fended for myself for the past two years. I wasn’t going to all of the sudden pretend someone was “giving me away” when there is no one to “give me away” and there hasn’t been for years. Though, I had no problem walking alone, I did consider having my mom walk me down the aisle or even my sister.
Then my mom suggested I ask my stepdad.
My stepdad and my mom got married while I was in college. Because they live far away, I haven’t gotten a chance to cultivate a close relationship with him. Why should he replace my dad?, I thought. I balked at the idea of taking someone else’s arm and marching down the aisle like my dad never existed.
However, watching Kim’s episode made me realize that’s not what I would be doing. Nothing and no one can replace my dad. Walking down the aisle with my stepdad isn’t pretending he doesn’t exist. My stepdad is married to my mom and having him walk me down the aisle represents being given away by the only family I have left. And even in his absence, my dad will still be represented. He is mostly paying for the wedding (which is what I think he would have wanted), plus he helped shape me into the woman who will be standing at the altar in front of her husband in a few weeks.
I don’t think my dad would want me to walk alone anyway. I am not alone. I have a family who loves me. A family that should be acknowledged as such on the biggest day of my life.
When something bad happens, especially death, it’s tempting to kill everything else too. Dreams, hopes, goals, relationships, friendships, everything is game for the slaughter. You see this when people lose a parent and quit school or lose a spouse and quit their job or lose a child and emotionally shut out their remaining children. Sometimes death opens our eyes to what is truly important and, as a result, we walk away from things that we should walk away from. But sometimes, we cut things off because we are numb. It’s not that those things aren’t important and don’t matter, it’s just that we don’t have any feeling. So it’s easy to say, “I’m done with that” in an attempt to regain that sense of control in a situation where we feel like we have lost control. Destroying things isn’t always the right answer and I have to continue to remind myself that life does and should go on.
Watching Kim Kardashian take her stepdad’s arm and walk down the aisle (toward a sham marriage, albeit), I decided I would do the same thing. Though my dad isn’t here anymore, I don’t walk alone. I have a family who loves and supports me that will be represented when my stepdad “gives me away”.