All roads lead to Rome.
It was Christmas day 2006. As my dad came around the corner holding a big box, I picked up my shiny new Canon 30D. It was a moment I didn't want to miss. Dad handed mom the big box and told her to open her present. As my mom peeled back the layers, she discovered she got the brand new Apple computer she had been begging for!
Momma jumped up and said a big "THANK YOU JESUS!" and Daddy jumped up off the couch soooooo excited that he finally "got one on Momma" with the surprise. I've never seen my dad so excited. It was a simple moment of joy that I watched my parents share as they embraced each other.
Looked each other in the eye.
And laughed some more.
If only we had known, that was 1 of 3 Christmases left with Daddy.
What daddy never knew was that, well, it wasn't quite the surprise he thought it was. Mom knew the whole time she was getting a computer. But she knew how important it was to my dad to still think it was a surprise. She wasn't going to ruin the joy he had from simply giving.
That pretty much somes up my dad's love language. He was a giver always providing for my mom and I. Every night when he prayed to God, it was always the same prayer over and over:
"Dear Lord, I thank you for another day in this life, and if you have any blessings you want to give me, give them to someone else who needs it more than me. You know I'm a simple man, and I don't need much."
But one thing he was excited to splurge on himself was a trip to Rome. He retired in early 2008 and we were starting to plan a family trip to visit Rome. I personally wanted to go to Paris, but Rome was his city he always dreamed of visiting for the history. He was a history buff and wanted to see Roman history in person. But then the news came in the summer of 2008 that no one wants to hear. Daddy had lung cancer. With the quick decline in his health, the three of us never made it to Rome.
But starting tomorrow, the two of us will. As a mother/daughter adventure before I get married, mom and I are heading to Europe, ending our travels in Rome, in memory of my dad.
With the same camera that once took these photos of my dad that Christmas morning, I'll be bringing with me to document the city he never saw.
It seems like lately, I've been hearing the news of so many other's loved ones being diagnosed with cancer. To be honest, there's still a part of me that doesn't quite know what to say to comfort people now in the same shoes I was once in. But I do know that the experience changed the way I look at life, that each day is a gift from our ultimate Giver who I know my dad is walking beside now in Heaven.
And if there's anything I believe my dad would tell me now, it's to live each day to the fullest. That God is still good no matter what. That you can dream dreams that crash around you, but dream them anyway. To not wait until retirement to see the places you dream of seeing. To see the rest of the beautiful world God created. And if I think that's incredible, just wait until I see the beauty that awaits that he now sees in Heaven.
As my dad's favorite t-shirt used to say in French:
"Laissez les bon temps rouler!"
(Let the good times roll!)
And I leave you with a pic from that Christmas 2006 afternoon of Rhett and I crashing on my dad and his recliner to snooze for our post-Christmas-dinner-food-coma nap. Gotta admit, I miss those moments with my dad, just sitting on his recliner, solving all the world's problems.