Seventh Anniversary

Dave Verkaik, 1955 - 2005

It’s rainy, it’s gray and the heavens look like they’re about to open the flood gates and drench us all in a cool spring rain.  It was like that seven years ago today, the day I lost my Dad.

Each anniversary has been drastically different for me.  The earlier years were crushing and painful.  I typically spent them with close friends and we shared soup and pie, my two main comfort foods.  Each year has been different, but the common thread is one of healing.  Still, I always ache for him, not just on March 19 but always.  Some days it seems like he’s been gone forever but sometimes the thought of our seven year separation sounds ridiculous.

When I hear my friends use the phrase “my Dad said” or “I talked with my Dad” my heart and mind think this:  Oh, Your dad? I’m jealous that you have a Dad.  I remember what that was like, having a Dad.  I loved my Dad, he was awesome.  God I miss him, so bad.

When we buried my Mom my Uncle Rich said read this quote over her grave.  It is profoundly, perfectly true and it has permanently adhered itself to my perspective on loss.

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first but at the same time it is a great consolation.  For the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. God does not fill it but on the contrary keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other even at the cost of pain.  ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As famous theologians tend to do, Bonhoeffer nailed it.  I walk this earth with an empty Dave shaped hole.  He was my one and only, and I am forever lacking him.  I would describe it as a constant dull ache, or a lost limb. Those who have lost an arm or a leg describe phantom pains that happen periodically, and sometimes my Dad-gap aches like that.  I’m constantly aware that he’s gone, but sometimes there is a sharp, acute pain, and in those moments his absence is almost intolerable.

I have grown to have a peace with my Dad gap, I couldn’t get rid of it so finding a peace with it was the next best thing.  I honor my connection with him by honoring the purpose God put on my life.  One of the last and best conversations we had was him reassuring me that once I had found my call, my “thing”, that I would soar.  I was floundering in those days, only on the cusp of giving him something to be proud of.   would be proud of me, and although I have a hefty amount of self-doubt, that is one thing I am pretty confident in.

No one really knows whether or not the dead bear witness to what is happening here on earth.  There are logical parts of me that are sure that they don’t, and then there are corners of my heart that are confident that they can.

I do still feel that painful connection Bonhoeffer refers to.  My Dad and I are still in communion and although I don’t understand the logistics of it, I know that he’s at peace.  He’s with God and he’s bursting with joy, his burdens are gone, and he’s fully the person God created him to be.  I can also feel how much he loves his grandkids, even though he’s never held them or pushed them on a swing.

Yes, I love being my Father’s daughter, yes I feel him, and oh yes… I miss him even seven years out it stings and it’s hard.  But we are intrepid, we carry on.