This week I’m diverting from my usual hospice patient story to honor Father’s Day. I submit this each year and consider it my Father’s Day card. I’ve never known my biological father. As a young boy, I longed for a father. The longing was so deep, so profound at times that I physically ached in my gut. I longed for a father to teach me, to believe in me and yes, even correct me. I longed for a father when grade school friends talked about what they did with their fathers over the weekend. I longed for a father when I watched TV shows like “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver”. And I especially longed for a father during those dreaded, long awkward walks across the football field on parent’s nights.
But there were men who, like an oasis in a desert, refreshed and encouraged me along my way. There was my uncle Don who walked the sidelines at my football games. I’d hear his voice above the crowd cheering me on. It didn’t matter if he was drunk; at least he was there; at least he was proud of me, he embraced me.
And there was Mr. Newberry, the father of my high school friend, Bill. Bill told me in study hall one day that his dad offered to pay for me to attend an expensive speed reading course. I asked Bill why and he replied, “Dad said he sees something in you; that he sees you going to college some day.” College hadn’t entered my mind until that day. Mr. Newberry believed in and inspired me; and he gave me my only high school graduation present, a multicolored polo shirt that I wore until it became threadbare.
And there was Charlie. I worked for Charlie at his market from the sixth to the ninth grade. Charlie taught me how to work. As I proved myself he trusted me with increasing responsibilities. I thought I’d “arrived” when he allowed me to slice lunchmeat behind the meat counter and man the cash register. And Charlie took me to Coney Island with his family. Charlie and his family included me.
And there was coach Pauley who pulled me aside in the tunnel of the old New Boston football stadium at halftime. He grabbed me by my shoulder pads as I was heading back to the field, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Loren, I know you can do better than that. I know what you’re capable of; now get out there and do it.” Coach Pauley challenged me.
You’d think that by the ripe old age of thirty, married with a five-year-old daughter, that I would have outgrown my longing for a father. It was about thirty years ago and I was going through some very trying times. I routinely started out each day at my old metal desk in the basement, praying and studying God’s word. That morning I prayed, “Lord, I don’t mean to whine and complain, but it sure would be nice to have a father to talk to about things from time to time.” God’s response was unexpected and immediate; that “still small voice” (I Kings 19:11-12) was loud and clear: “Who do you think it was who brought all those men your way? And I’ve given you my Spirit to lead you; and I’ve guided you by my word? You’ve gotten to know me in a way that some people never will. You’ve had me.”
I wept tears of thankfulness before my Father that morning; and since that day, Father’s Day has never been the same, and neither have I. The lyrics of the song, “I have a Maker”, express what I realized that day: “I have a Maker, He formed my heart. Before even time began my life was in his hand. He knows my name. He knows my every thought. He sees each tear that falls, and he hears me when I call. I have a Father, He calls me his own. He’ll never leave me no matter where I go…”
I don’t think we ever outgrow the deep longing and need for a Father to talk to now and then. It’s scripted into our very hearts and souls by our Maker. A retired high school teacher stopped by the office one day, about month after her mother’s death on hospice. She shared, “I’ve lost both parents now and I feel like a sixty-seven year old orphan.”
So I’m here to tell you that if you’re longing for a Father to talk to now and then; that there’s a Father who knows your name, who knows your every thought, who hears you when you call, and who will never leave you no matter where you go.
“Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD… Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God…” (Psalms 68:4-6, ESV)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525