I grew up in a family and spiritual environment that fostered and encouraged courtship, marriage, and family. It was not so much talked about, as much as it was lived out 24/7. I grew up the eldest of five children, four sons and on spoiled daughter (no bias on my part I assure you). I grew up in what I considered to be a normal, loving home. It was demonstrated to me, through daily life, that one grows and matures, and at a certain point in time in your life, you fall in love and get married and have children. It just was that way. That was the world as I understood it.
So, at that time in my life when I became a teenager, I developed an awareness and fondness for the female member of the human species. Like many teenage boys, I had my share of broken hearts, to the point that when I reached adulthood, I still yearned for that one soul mate connection that would bring me joy and contentment and the joys family and belonging.
When I first met Lori, I had just sworn myself off from dating two weeks before. I was tired of constant disappointment and broken hearts. I met Lori in what I considered the most unlikely of places, church. It’s not that I did not think I would meet the girl of my dreams there, it’s just I personally did not expect that to happen to me. But it did happen… and it is one of the best things that has happened in my life.
I met Lori in late November, and I asked her to marry me a week later. Seven months later, we were married, and thirteen months after that, we were graced with the birth of our first daughter, Carragh. Yesterday was the anniversary of Carragh’s birth. Yesterday, was the anniversary of my becoming a father for the first time.
Today, thinking on fatherhood, and thinking about being a husband, and all that these thoughts stir up, all the emotions that come alive as I remember precious moments of love, intimacy, moments of engagement and activities that families do together as families just enjoy life together, work together, play together, celebrate milestones together, and persevere through trial and adversity together, and grieve and mourn loss together. All these moments flood the heart and mind, cause a tear or two to trickle down the cheek. You think of what was, and you dream of what could have been. And you find comfort the beauty and the grace of what those treasured memories have become, and how these events in your shared lives have contributed to your growth as a person, and how compassion and empathy have been seared and burned into your heart, and has made you the man that you have become. Today, as I think of my beloved first child, Carragh, I think of her words, “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”
Today, I think of all my daughters, Carragh, Caitlin, and Erinn. Carragh was the first born, and her battle with cancer affected the whole family, and the battle helped to shape our family. I have been blessed beyond measure as a Dad. I grew as a person, and as a man, a husband and as a father through those years that bound our family together. Many families become fractured as they battle a life threatening illness. Marriages are strained, and some marriages snap and break from the pressure of dealing with illness and the related issues that affects the daily routine of a family. I look at how we were transformed through that struggle, and I am thankful for the grace and the mercy that we all were given.
I look at my girls, and how even Carragh, as a young girl, was very much, the “mother hen” and brooded over Caitlin and Erinn, and was very caring and protective of her sisters. I am so thankful that as a Dad, I did not give up as I once contemplated on not having more children. I am so happy, that Lori and I had two more children while Carragh was alive. I look at the lives of Caitlin and Erinn and I see brilliant young women, who are gifted and talented, and who are compassionate and understanding human beings. They are articulate and passionate, and I am blessed to be their Dad.
So yesterday was Carragh’s birthday. I am sure she celebrated it in heaven. Lori and I remembered her and celebrated with speaking of memories that have shaped our lives. It was sweet. Even the twinge of the “what if” and “what would she be like now”, was not enough to deter or turn off the emotional remembrance of our first born. Carragh. Carragh came into my life as a blessing, and that blessing has never ceased. Carragh modelled for me how to life and how to face adversity, and she also taught me how to die, to live with no regrets, and to embrace the moments. For that I am eternally thankful. One day, I shall see Carragh, face to face, just as she is. What a sweet reunion that will be.