Lessons from my dad’s passing

Forgive me for the heavy post but there are some things that must be said… we’ll get back to babies and weddings next week- we promise 🙂

It’s been two weeks since my dad passed away and undoubtedly the longest two weeks of my life. We’re back in Nashville after a week spent in Atlanta. We packed up the car first thing on Friday Sept. 20th after receiving a phone call Thursday night that my dad was in the hosptial with a very bad case of pneumonia. I spoke with the nurse and she explained to me his condition in a 30 minute phone call. I’ll never forget how patient she was as I asked questions. I needed to know everything. She very seriously said ‘Leslie, your dad is very, very ill’ and I knew then that we needed to get to Atlanta as soon as possible.

After everything that has happened, I feel the need to write and write some more. I have so many things I need to say and so many lessons have been learned in such a short period of time.

My dad went into the hospital on Thursday September 19th around 11:00 a.m. and by Saturday night shortly after midnight he was gone.

bless the lord oh my soul

In order to somewhat understand what I went through in that week, you’ll need to know a few things…

I am my dad’s only child. During my childhood we certainly had our share of hard times but for the most part from the time I was born until right after I graduated high school our lives were full of great memories. He was at every cheerleading competition to cheer me on and was constantly behind the camera documenting every minute. He was very involved in my life. My love for photography is directly tied to my dad. He documented my every move as a child. I can’t thank him enough for that. When my parents divorced, he did everything he could to create memories with me- took me deep sea fishing, to Washington D.C. and Charleston, whisked me away to New York for a weekend to see a concert. He was spontaneous and loving. When I went off to college, I imagine it was very difficult for him to not have me around to keep him busy. Without going into too much detail, we went through almost 12 years of not having a very close relationship. There were many, many disappointments and a lot of heartache.

 The grief. The guilt.

For those that know me and knew my dad– I won’t sugar coat it to say we had a perfect relationship because it was far from it. We went through some really terrible times together and more recently it was a painful, confusing time. A lot of those feelings are what make it so hard in his passing. He only held Davis twice. Once – a couple of days after he was born and again this past Christmas.

It’s pretty scary to me how easy it was for me to cover all the good memories with the bad ones. Unfortunately in the past couple of years, the hard times overshadowed the good times. Now that I’m focusing on the good times- I’m remembering so many things I had forgotten. What a blessing that is!

God gives us lessons in everything.

I’ve been feeling this overwhelming sense of change in my heart. The past week has taught me to focus on the lessons, the good times, the memories and the love. In the midst of a time when it’s so easy to focus on the hurt, the fear, the guilt, the bad times and the grief… I choose to focus on the opposite. But make no mistake about it…it’s a choice.

It comes in waves. The pain creeps up through my stomach, makes me dizzy and nauseous. And then it subsides and I remember something great…like riding on my dad’s shoulders in Disney World and him teaching me to drive in his Suburban.

dad and leslie blog

The greatest lesson so far…

Life is too short. How many times have you said this? I know I have. We say it…but do we act on this belief? I know for me, in the past year I’ve been feeling some tugs on my heart to repair things with my dad. And I never got around to it. I let the pain control my heart. And I’m here to tell you- that’s no place to live. We are truly not gauranteed tomorrow. I should have listened to the feelings I had on my heart and I should have acted. I should have swallowed my pride. I have much to learn about forgiveness. And one thing I’m learning, is that even after he’s passed, I’m still working on forgiving him. And I’m also working on the part where I forgive myself. Forgiveness doesn’t happen over night.

I will never get the chance to pick up the phone and call a truce with my dad. I will never get to tell him that I love him. He will never hold Davis again. These are the thoughts my mind can’t quite comprehend right now.

I just know it will take time to heal. I like to think my dad is in heaven and watching me work through these really hard, confusing feelings. Sometimes it feels like he’s saying ‘I know. I know. And it’s ok’

I like to think that every time I am behind the camera documenting someone’s life he’ll be up there so proud that he influenced me in that way. As I spent hours going through pictures last week to display at his memorial service, I was reminded yet again why I take pictures. It is a priceless thing to hold a printed picture of something that happened so long ago. Those memories of my dad and I deep sea fishing — of him holding me on his shoulders at Disney World– are forever written on a photograph that I can hold and touch and look at for the rest of my life. There is nothing better than that.

So Dad, if you can hear me… I love you and I’m sorry.

he gives me peace


5 thoughts on “Lessons from my dad’s passing”

  • Melissa Chaffin Fouts says:

    I knew your Dad from high school. I dated his brother, Rick during the 70’s. We grew up in a very different time when being young and reckless was the way it was. Your Dad was always so kind to me and looked after me when I was around him. He had a huge heart and loved life. As parents, we only want what’s best for our children. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you had with him he always wanted the best for you. because that’s what parents do. As you watch your son grow you will learn that being a parent is the hardest job you will ever have. I p ray you find comfort in the fact that even though he is is gohe he will always be your guardian angel watching after you and Davis, and he is smiling down on you proud that you have become the special woman you are. God Bless you during this time. Prayers that you will find healing in your hear.

  • Sherry Berryman Smith says:

    Leslie, Your Dad and I were very close even though we would go for a long time without contact, when we did talk he was a loving and compassionate friend. We talked about God a lot the last few times we talked and he ALWAYS talked about you. It doesn’t matter how things were just before he passed, nothing could have changed the way he loved you. As Davis gets older, you’ll understand more. Forgive yourself and accept God’s grace. That’s what your Dad would want for you. I’m praying for you and your family.

  • Roshd Ghalleb says:

    I feel your pain… I really do in my own way…! I was extremely moved while reading this post. It is a very intimate and personal one and I thank you for finding the strength to share it. I know it wasn’t easy, but I hope that the initiative brought you some closure and / or relief by putting it down in writing. I wish I could do that. I feel it will be therapeutical and very beneficial to exorcize all our demons inside of us. You are extremely sensitive and you have the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in my life. I know how passionate you are in your daily life and that’s why you are loved so much. I am sorry that you have encountered so much struggle with your dad. I relate to everything you’ve described and you are right. Nothing beats calling the truce in order to close the bad memory book and throw it down deep in the ocean. But sometimes we are late doing that and I know today that it is ok. It’s a process and we can continue working on it afterwards. It’s a torture but it’s the only way out, so just like you said, you’ll continue working on forgiving him and also forgiving yourself. It will shape up your personality and completes it with the affirmation that you have matured to the wonderful human being that you were always meant to be. We love and cherish you and your absolutely remarkable family Leslie!!! Take it easy on yourself. Yes life is short, and I think it’s a blessing in disguise that we understand it sometimes, so we could finally start acting on it…

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