I'm here in California, by myself. My closest family member is 2,000 miles away. While I am building a surrogate family here, one day at a time, remembering what I'm missing out on this weekend is painful.
After 19 years, my dad is retiring from the ministry. All of the Garrards are converging in Hickory this weekend to celebrate a life of dedication and sacrifice. All but one. It's so strange to be missing out on this. I was prepared for it and knew I wasn't going to make it home for it, but for some reason I didn't know how to emotionally prepare for it.
This weekend is as much for dad as it is for us: my mom, brother, sister and I. Our lives circled around him our whole lives. We moved when he moved. We packed when he packed. We cried when he cried. We were hurt when he was hurt. We got involved when he got involved. I am who I am directly because of what my dad is. The fact of the matter is, when I go home it will be very different. He will be home during the day and available at night. His stack of magazines he never has time to read will be much smaller and all the leaky faucets will be tight. He will sit with us in the pew at church and will ride home with us afterwards.
I wish I could be home this weekend to share a story about him. When I think of my dad, I don't think of him as a pastor. I picture him in his dirty, ratty clothes working on a car. However, his character is definitely one of a pastor. Much like a shepherd. He guides, pursues, engages, and cares. Every person is important. Every person deserves a look in the eye and a hand shake, no matter your age, race, or stature. We were never an experiment or a task or a member of his flock. We were his family. I am his daughter, not a project.
He deserves every accolade that is going to be given to him. Every kind word. Every round of applause. He's done good things on this earth. Great things.