*MGO stands for My Grief Observed. These are the posts I’m writing when I need to work through the loss of my daddy. They are not light and fluffy.
Many parents tell their kids they can be anything they want to be, but I’m not convinced that all of them believe it. My dad did.
My dad was a minister of music in a large church. November and December were two of his busiest months because they were focused on the church Christmas production. For over twenty years, Dad thought of new Christmas program ideas. He could have opted to coast through his last few years until retirement, but every year he would do his best to make that year’s presentation better than the previous year’s. From singing Christmas trees to a live nativity scene complete with camels to angels flying through the worship center, every Christmas program was special. People from all over the community would come every year to see what new and exciting things our church had planned. Dad knew that many people will come to a church Christmas program who may never come to any other service all year so he wanted to be sure that every year the message of Jesus and how He changes lives was always the central theme.
Some time in the late summer or early fall of 1999, Dad told me that he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for Christmas that year. He shared a few ideas he had and we talked about what we liked and didn’t like about them. To make a point about one of his ideas, I told Dad about a story I had made up on my commute to work. As long as I can remember I’ve had stories in my head. They entertain me when I’m bored. At the time I was working as a nurse in a hospital that was about a thirty-minute drive from my home. Since I’m a part of the generation who watched MTV when, first, MTV had music videos, and second, the videos actually had a story that had to do with the song, I’m prone to making music videos in my head to songs I hear on the radio. So I told my dad about the latest music video/story that was appearing in my head because I thought elements of it might actually work with some of the ideas he was proposing for the Christmas program.
Now you need to understand that my dad wasn’t chatty, nor was he a gusher. He communicated what he wanted to say without any excess frills or flourishes. Therefore, I wasn’t terribly surprised when he listened to my story and then said nary a word. Did he like it? Hate it? Who knew? Understandably, I was extremely surprised when a few weeks later, during a conversation with our pastor, Dad told him that I would be writing an original Christmas drama for our production that year! Again, who knew? Certainly not me! I had written short skits before but never a full-length drama and especially never one on such a large scale. I started writing because my dad needed me to and he believed that I could…although I had serious doubts. How did I know he really believed I could do it? Well, he had no Plan B. He staked his very reputation on a play that I hadn’t even written yet.
Writing that Christmas drama was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. I had some of the sweetest, most memorable meetings with God as I wrote a story, ironically enough, about a girl who was grieving the loss of her mom at Christmastime. I have the honor of knowing one of the most creative men who has ever lived–my friend Bobby–and he built one of the most amazing sets that I’ve ever seen, complete with an indoor ice skating rink! Then he even agreed to play the part of one of the main characters! What an amazing experience to hear my words come out of other people’s mouths! It was an incredible opportunity for me and that Christmas will always be one of my favorites. I don’t think that drama would win a Tony, but God did allow that little play to be the vehicle He used to bring people to Him.
Over the next few years, my dad and I did several other productions together. Besides the first one we did, I think my other favorite would have to be the last one we did together the Christmas before I moved to Massachusetts. My dad had already announced that he would be leaving the music ministry the next year so I knew that this could be our last musical production to do together. I had no idea that we’d never have another opportunity because he’d no longer be here, but somehow I knew that this was a special time that would never be repeated. It was a very emotional time for me, not only because I desperately wanted to make my daddy proud, but because I wanted to make sure that I made my heavenly Dad proud, too. In some small way, I wanted my part in making the Christmas production to be my gift to them. Again, the drama itself was just a drama, but God blessed me by allowing me to see people enter into a relationship with Him after seeing the Christmas program.
I’ve been thinking about those Christmas productions a lot the last few weeks. ‘Tis the season for Christmas practices and performances. A week or so ago “Welcome to Our World” was on the radio. That song was a major part of that first Christmas production and I spent some time reminiscing about set designs and practices and staying up late to get scenes just so. Last night I sat in our church’s worship center and watched our choir and music department present an inspiring presentation of Christmas and the blessing of this season. It was a beautiful program, but I couldn’t help but miss my dad. My oldest son sang in the children’s choir and I wished so desperately that his Papa were there to see him. I admired the beautiful set with the backdrop of stars that my dad had always talked about using one of these performances, but we just never did. He would have loved it. And I would have loved to have had the opportunity to do just one more Christmas program with him.
Today’s my dad’s birthday. It’s a tough day that follows a difficult weekend of missing him so much that I sometimes feel I can’t even breathe. But today, even through the tears, I’m celebrating that I had a dad who thought I could do things I didn’t believe I could do. It’s one thing to say you believe in your child; it’s quite another to take a huge risk to prove it. Never in a million years would I have ever done anything like that on my own, and I would have missed out on some of the most incredible experiences of my life.
I miss you, Daddy. I hope they have red velvet cake in heaven.