Her Father Died When She Was 4 Years Old. This Is How His Love Lived On.

When I was still in diapers my Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor-yes, cancer. One week before my 5th birthday he died. He was 43 years old. This was a terribly tragic moment in my life, but I’m not writing to make you feel sad or gain your sympathy. I’m writing to share my story of a beautiful, loving man and the sacrifices he made to ensure I could live a wonderful and full life. This is a story with a happy ending.

It’s been 32 years since my Dad left me, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I wish everyday that he was here to see the woman I have become, the life I have made for myself. I wish he could meet my husband, I wish he could laugh with my friends. As I write this, millions of families around the world are celebrating Father’s Day. This has always been a difficult day for me, but this year has been particularly challenging. My husband and I have recently made the decision to start our own family, and the thought that my children will never know their Grandfather, will never know the strong, kind, gentle, and caring man that he was, hurts my heart.

My Dad was born to be a family man. When I was born (surprise!) he had already raised three adult sons, and he thought changing diapers and chasing toddlers was behind him. He didn’t miss a beat though. We were only together for a short time, but I have so many beautiful memories of him. From teaching me how to fish to chasing me around the yard, he was always a doting and attentive father. While grief is always a rollercoaster, with it’s ups, downs, twists, and turns, one thought always brings me comfort in those moments, the person I am today is a direct result of how much he care about me.

After spending literally half of her life with my father (she married him at 17), his passing was extremely difficult for my Mother. The months and years after were a testing time in her life, sometimes even simple day-to-day routines were unbearable. I didn’t know this until later in life, but my father had spent years planning for just such a moment. For all his strength, he understood the uncertainty of life all too well. And, the last thing he wanted was to leave his wife and child behind to fend for themselves in what can be a cruel world. My father’s foresight and financial responsibility provided us the comfort and support he could no longer physically provide for us. Because of his careful attention we were always provided for and never felt the fear of financial instability. My Mom was able to stay home and raise me, as they had always planned for, we were able to move to a new home in a safe and quiet neighborhood, and I was able to attend a good school. I may have taken these things for granted at the time, but looking back, these were amazing advantages that few are afforded after such a tragedy. I have no doubt that my life would have turned out very differently had my mother had to immediately embark on a career, in the midst of the turmoil and grief, in order to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. Sadly, this kind of tragedy happens to families all over the world everyday. So, each day I am so thankful for not only the time I got to spend with my father, but for the planning, hard work, and dedication he put into making sure we were safe and provided for even in his absence.

Thanks to my Dad making arrangement for the “just in case”, my childhood is filled with memories of my Mom picking me up from school everyday, baking cookies, and summers filled with travel and seeing new places. My childhood memories could have looked very different if my Dad had not put a plan in place to ensure that we were cared for when he was gone. He loved baseball and he sure knew how to prepare for a curveball.

Now, as I am preparing to start my own family, I have such a deep understanding and appreciation for the the benefits of planning for the future. I know most people have a very abstract understanding of the benefits of planning for a future that does not include them, but I can say from personal experience, it’s one of the most beautiful, thoughtful, and kind things my Father did for us. And, I am committed to making sure my children will feel the same comfort and protection if one day I’m not there to give it to them.

Jenna Rush is a writer, chef, Oncology Nurse Supervisor, adventurer, supermodel, aspiring horticulturist, and one hell of a wife. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her devilishly handsome husband and their brood of four-legged children.

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