I miss you. With every bone in my body and every second of the day, I miss you. I miss the twinkle in your eye and your excitement about your latest MCC purchase. I miss the way that you loved hearing Ry sing and play guitar and how you always told Mom that she needed to buy the full price jeans because she deserved the good quality stuff (She finally did it, by the way! Mom bought jeans that weren’t even on sale!). I miss your laugh and your hugs and the way you loved us by fixing almost every problem. I miss asking you about the latest weird YouTube videos you were watching.
And I miss telling you about my day.
So, I kinda figured that maybe I could do that now. Dad, can I tell you about my day?
Well, not today, but a day that you never got to finish.
January 22, 2015.
I remember getting ready that morning. I wore Ry’s band shirt (You were honestly the best band dad ever, by the way) and black jeans. Half my hair was pulled back in a mini-bun, because I was copying one of the girls on campus whose style I secretly was really envious of, and I finished the look with matte red lipstick and perfect liquid eye-liner.
I think I had a nap that afternoon. I went to class, did some grocery shopping, and worked on some homework. My roommate Kate and I were in charge of making dinner for our dorm and another dorm that was coming over for dinner that night. The menu was copious amounts of taco salad (Dad! I can kinda cook!). Our dinner guests arrived later with their contribution of warm brownies and homemade whipped cream. You know how I wasn’t eating grains or sugars? Yeah these brownies and cream were worth the exception. SO good.
My pocket started vibrating with an incoming phone call from Mom. Even then my heart picked up speed, and fear started to inch its way in. Both times that Mom had called me at school unannounced in the past year and a half, were to tell me that someone I loved had died. One call told me that Grandpa passed away, the other that Uncle Pete was suddenly gone. You know how much I avoided using the phone, Dad, but by now I hated phone calls because it felt like all they brought was pain.
I decided that the bathroom was my best option for some privacy from the 15 girls in my living room. On my way out, I knocked over a plate of whipped cream that landed upside down on the floor. In my hurry to see what Mom wanted, I said, “I’ll clean that up later.”
It was just some whipped cream, but that sentence was the last thing I said as Rachel Wall, a girl with a brother and two perfect parents. The last sentence with my dreams still intact.
When I answered the phone to hear Mom sobbing, confirming my fears, my heart jumped to my throat. But my first thought was: What happened to Grandma? She was the one who was getting older and had some health concerns. Still an awful thought, but it was at least a bit logical. It was never “supposed to be” you, Dad. Of course you were right beside Mom as she called us or on your way home from your trip. Whatever this tragedy was, I would come home and we would all be together.
As I slid to the floor, I started crying on instinct. “Mom. What’s going on? What is it?!” The longer I was on the phone, the more I realized I had never in my life heard her like this.
“Rachel… I don’t know how to say this.”
“Mom,” I pressed again, “What’s happening?!”
Despite the earpiece on my iPhone being almost non-functioning, her next sentence was way too clear.
“Your dad is gone.”
In that moment, I felt like I stepped outside my body. I saw myself sitting on the floor in utter shock, and I heard myself wail “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”
I couldn’t tell Mom’s crying from mine as she explained that you– my dad, my hero and my protector– had crashed your transport truck into a bridge and died on impact.
I tend to be a pretty logical person, but in that moment, I sounded like an agonizing broken record: “You’re lying! No, it’s not true. It’s NOT TRUE, Mom! YOU’RE WRONG. YOU HAVE TO BE WRONG!”
The call that changed my life ended with utter defeat and countless I love you’s. Somehow, 30 seconds had changed everything.
The world slowed. This was it. I stood up to face my reflection– the Rachel that I now was but didn’t want to be. Dad, I couldn’t imagine my life without you. There was no way that this was the new reality. My makeup was dissolved on my face in streaks of black and red, and it seemed to fit the way I felt.
Sometime during this process, I heard our dinner guests file out and remembered where I was. As I stumbled out of the bathroom, and shared the news for the first of hundreds of times, it was another reminder that this nightmare was real life.
“My dad died.”
I saw the blood drain from my dormmates’ faces and it felt a little bit like what was happening inside me. As some of them ran to get help, I collapsed onto the floor and cried like I had never cried before.
As the night went on, different people came through the dorm and helped me get ready to go home, but from that one second, everything had changed. I called Ry soon after, and we just sobbed. Because how are an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old supposed to navigate life without their dad? Most days I’m still not sure.
The only thing I really wanted to do at that point was go home and tell you about this nightmare and get lost in your hugs. But then I would remember that you were the reason I needed comfort in the first place. It just wasn’t right. I remember telling Kait, my Residence Life Director, that I just couldn’t see God’s hand in what just happened. It didn’t make sense. (I don’t think I’ll ever get it, but I’m trying to cling to the promise that He is still good and that we are held in the same hands that you are).
On the way home, I saw the picture of the crash, and I broke even more. Do you know that in some ways I was jealous of that bridge and that truck? Because they got to spend the last moments with you, Dad, and I was left clinging to memories of three weeks before. The last time we talked was when you and Ma dropped me off at school after Christmas break. You told me you loved me, and that I’d see you soon.
Soon is turning into a really long time, Dad. ❤
It’s been almost three months. But every single day I still hope that today, somehow, you will walk through the front door. I can still hear your laugh and picture your announcement, “I’m home! Anybody miss me?” Oh, wow, do I ever miss you.
I remember another day– the day that I first visited Redeemer. I decided to stay for the night before the Campus Visit Day, so although I had friends joining me the next day, this night was my first university event by myself. As we pulled into Redeemer and got out of the van and I tried to silence my nerves, the song that came on the radio was this brand new song that I loved (called “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, this little-known boyband at the time 😉 ), and with that song in my head and you by my side, I knew that everything was going to be all right.
Dad, I wish I had 17-year-old Rachel’s confidence back. Because I think it will be a very long time before I can say that everything is all right.
But two things I know for sure:
God is good.
And I miss you.
I love you forever, Papa.