A Fathers First Lesson (The 4 P’s)– June 2014 (Father’s Day)
“Good night Honey”, said my wife. “Good night Baby,” as I leaned over and gave her a kiss. “Oh, I forgot to tell Zoe good night. I quickly rolled out of bed and down to my daughter’s room as she was waiting for me to tuck her in. (Just as I did every night). “Daddy!” she exclaimed, “you’re late, it’s passed my bedtime.” I know sweetheart, I was trying to tuck Mommy into bed too. But don’t worry I’m here now. I told her good night, and tucked her in returning to bed with my wife.
Now what I didn’t know that tonight wasn’t going to be a good night. It was going to be a terrible and horrible night. I had no clue that when I rolled over, and fell into a deep REM sleep, that the next few moments would be those that changed my life forever. On this Father’s Day, I’d like to share with you what happened that unforgettable evening.
The night ended just like any other night with me tucking in my favorite girls my wife of 6 years, and my 10 year old daughter. We had just celebrated Zoe’s 10th birthday, and needless to say we were all exhausted spending the entire Saturday with 8-10 year olds hyped up on candy and soda! You would think that a 10 year old wouldn’t be so expensive, well I’m here to tell you I’m dreading her ‘sweet sixteen’. Nonetheless, that’s my baby. What I wouldn’t do for my little princess. I’m sure you feel the same way? Zoe is what we like to call a Daddy’s girl, like many little girls they find themselves extremely attached to their fathers and just as equally their fathers to them. I was no different, from the time I awoke to the time I went to bed my mind was full of thoughts and dreams of my family. However, never had I ever dreamt of what was to come next.
Life is precious you know. As hard as we try as parents, especially as a Black father it seems as if we can never get it right. I’d like to think I was something like the perfect parent, at least that’s what my daughter thought and as long as she was happy I was happy. I have to admit, I’ve spoiled her quite a bit. Clothes, shoes, dolls, bikes you name it! We had just got her involved in cheerleading, and music lessons. Not to mention, I had just recently taught her how to ride a bike and took her to her first Daddy-Daughter Dance. She’s a very smart girl, what I wouldn’t give to give her the world. However, it was what happened last night that would change my life forever.
Late that night as I began to fall asleep, I heard a soft knock at the door. I thought I was trippin’, so I ignored it. A few minutes later, I heard a knock at the door again except this time it was with a bit more force. I decided I would run downstairs and see who it was that could be knocking at this hour. I rolled out of bed, threw on my robe and rushed downstairs to do just that. Approaching the door, looking through the peep hole I noticed a bright light but when I opened it no one was there. I looked around the patio area, and out into the yard as far as I could see. Assuming someone was playing around in the neighborhood, I quickly returned to bed.
Next I heard my daughter saying ‘Daddy’. This time I woke up out of my sleep immediately, and rushed over to her room. ‘Yes, Baby?’. No response. My daughter was sound asleep. Now at this point I felt like I was losing my mind. Was I dreaming? Was somebody playing tricks on me? Mildly confused and frustrated something was disturbing my sleep, I stormed back to bed determined to go to sleep ignoring any future distractions. But it’s what I heard next that I would never forget.
Just as I was dozing off, I heard a loud scream from around the corner. I was certain it was my daughter and I rushed to her room again. From a restless night, to an unbelievable nightmare Zoe was screaming to the top of her lungs in what appeared as excruciating pain. Jerking back and forth in her bed, she began to foam at the mouth by the time I got to her bedside. “Zoe!” I exclaimed. “Zoe are you ok!?” Her screams began getting softer and softer, until eventually her mouth was so full of foam that no sound could break through. My wife had called the police and joined me by Zoe’s bedside as we tried our best to rectify the situation. By the time the EMS arrived, it was obvious that Zoe had stopped breathing. No pulse, no reaction to me calling her name.. My one and only daughter was dead. Without warning, my innocent little princess had left me just that fast.
I stood lifeless likewise as we followed the paramedics to the hospital and watched them declare her ‘officially’ dead moments later. What a tragedy. “A parent should never have to bury their own child,’ I heard some of the nurses whispering behind the curtains of the room next to ours. I was distraught, and torn apart. My wife tried her best to keep it together but between the both of us, we could not find peace.
Days later, we proceeded to plan and go through the homegoing ceremony of our great daughter. As it came time to give remarks before the eulogy I stood before my wife, my parents and in-laws, a host of other family and friends, and most surprisingly many of Zoe’s friends from school. I stood up and said, today is not a day to be sad, but a day to celebrate life. That’s what every person is supposed to say right? Today is going to be a day that we celebrate the very short time we all had to experience with my daughter. As a father, I remember all of the little meaningful times in her life. Her first bath, first time eating solid food, her first steps, first day of school, first straight ‘A’ report card, her first time riding a bike, and most recently her 10th birthday. Those are the times that truly matter. Those are the things I want to remember, and will keep close to me. Likewise for all of you I’m sure there are times that all of you can hone in on that give you your greatest memory of my sweet little princess. Looking up I said, “Zoe, I know that you’re looking down on us and you’ll always be Daddy’s guardian angel.” We concluded our services and returned home to try and make sense of the days ahead.
As I lay down, I heard a very soft voice say, ‘Daddy’. I ignored it as it made me very uneasy knowing my Zoe was not there. Over and over I kept hearing ‘Daddy, wake up; Daddy wake up help me…’ I began to cry and even sob a little as I got out of bed and bowed my head. ‘Lord, why are you messing with me? You took my child and now you taunt me with voices like hers!’ I got up, and walked in fear to Zoe’s room. (We had cleaned up the room and set it up as if she wasn’t even gone) To my surprise as I pushed through the door, a dim light was showing and I pushed it open further and my sweet princess was sitting on the bed weeping. HONEY?! ZOE?! MY GOD Is that you?! I said. Yes Daddy. “How, what, are you an angel?! “No… Daddy… I am not.” “What do you mean you’re not? You were the sweetest little girl” I exclaimed!
The door slammed behind me and Zoe began to explain in a soft and weeping voice. “Well Daddy….. As I grew up you taught me a lot of things, you taught me how to ride a bike, taught me how to study hard, taught me how to play basketball, how to play the piano, how to tie my shoes, even taught me how to dance. However Daddy, you didn’t teach me about Jesus Christ.” My eyes grew wide and my mouth dropped. “But sweetheart, we went to church occasionally.” I said hoping this would make it seem like I hadn’t just condemned my daughter to eternal damnation. “Yes Daddy, we went to church, but you never taught me how to be the church. You never showed me what it meant to believe, and serve Christ. And because I did not believe, God rejected me at the gates. Sobbing uncontrollably, “Zoe….. how.. how… can… I… fix it…” I said in broken speech. She replied, “You can’t Father. Your chance has passed you, it is all in God’s hands now….” Zoe began to fade as the floor seem to drop beneath us and I watched what I assumed was the soul of my daughter fade into a black hole lost forever……
I screamed to the top of my lungs… “ZOOOEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!” As I did so, I felt a tug on my shoulder. “Yes Daddy, why are you screaming my name? You woke me up.” Zoe said in confusion. “Baby,” I said “Are you real?” “Haha, silly Yes I’m real….. you woke me up out my sleep.” I reached and grabbed her with tears rolling down my face! “Sweetheart, I love you so much I thought I had lost you.” I said to her she still trying to figure out what I was talking about. I let her go, and told her to go get ready she and I were going to go to Church, I had some new things to teach and show her. She said ok, and began walking off. “Oh Daddy….” She said from the door, “Happy Father’s Day!”
Turns out I had a terrible dream, and what seemed so real it brought me to sweat and tears in the morning. I’m telling you this story from one father to another… There is NOTHING greater that you can teach your child than how to believe, serve, and love Jesus Christ. Better than anything in school, any sport, any dance, any saying; Nothing more than how to be a true minister of the gospel through your child’s/children’s words, actions and ultimately their life. It goes without saying that this is first learned by observation. Your children will mimic and show favor to the things by which you make a priority in your own life. Put God first…. And all things will fall into place.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the biological, and step-in fathers in the world today. Understand your duty is more than just to be a Provider, Professor, and Protector, but most importantly the Preacher of your home.
With Passion, Purpose, and Pride,
Trent J ACEO