How Does a Father Love His Daughter?

The farm mower was loaded in the bed of the old Dodge truck and he wore his dad’s old Carhart jacket.

It was Father’s Day and he was ready to work.

We stood on the front porch, holding each other close for a moment, my head resting near his heart. He loved being Kalkidan’s dad.

In 2007 he flew to Ethiopia to pick her up.Ā Having been there two months earlier, I remained in Idaho with our newly-home baby and toddler. On the flights to the U.S., she wailed for hours at the injustice of the seat belt while flight attendants and sympathetic Ethiopian travelers tried to help.

In her hypervigilant state, Kalkidan could not be calmed and could not sleep. Passengers around them became irritated as her behavior challenged their patience. In a moment of clarity, he remembered the Uno cards tucked in his bag and taught her to play. Her love of competition soon outweighed her displeasure and anxiety; sheĀ calmed.

But she did not sleep – for many hours.

Walking through the Atlanta airport sometime the next day, both in a state of exhaustion, he put her on his back. She restedĀ her head against him and finally fell asleep.

That night, still thousands of miles from home, he recounted this to me, whispering so he wouldn’t wake her. I said, “Are you okay? How can you bear it?” His voice broke as he choked out the words, “I already love her.”

And he did.

Now, eleven years later, he drove to the cruel curve that had claimed her life. Once there, he parked the old truck and unloaded the mower. In the afternoon light, he mowed and cut weeds, clearing shoulder-high grass, finally revealing the cross bearing her name.

She should have been at the dinner table earlier that day, perhaps giving him a little gift, like the Mounds bar she carefully wrapped for him our last Christmas together. Instead, she has been gone over three years.

How does a father love his daughter when she is no longer alive?

My husband shows love to us in many ways. He can often be found repairing a fence or working on the patio he is building. Likewise, he takes care of the curve on the road where he last saw Kalkidan alive, where he blew his breath into her lungs, praying she would come back.

While this is the place of our greatest loss and trauma, it is also the place where our girl’s vibrant spirit slipped from her body. No longer contained, she was set free from her history of abuse, neglect, HIV, and sorrow.

Kalkidan was encompassed by the most beautiful love of all, the love of a perfect father.

That Father’s Day, the hours passed and it grew dark. I put the boys to bed, glancing out the window one more time. As I crawled into bed, I saw headlights coming up the driveway and the breath I didn’t know I was holding slowly released.

He’s finding his way through this unexpected grief journey, one more birthday, one more Christmas, one more Father’s Day. He asks God questions and still tries to wrap his mind around that winter day.

He won’t see her graduate from high school or walk her down the aisle at her wedding, but he can make that place just a little more beautiful.


Friends, I know it’s not easy to read about grief; thank you for reading our truth.

Are you weary and needing a little hope? I’ve been there too and I wrote thisĀ Free guide just for you, Hope for Your Parenting Journey: a guide for adoptive and foster moms.

With courage and hope, my friend,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRIĀ® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

18 Comments

  1. Sharon
    July 2, 2018

    This is beautiful and it brings tears to my eyes to read about your faithfulness in the journey. Thank you for sharing your heart Lisa! Lots of love from VA. šŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      Lots of love to you too, Sharon.

      Reply
  2. Carrie Buechner
    July 2, 2018

    Lisa, thank you for this. This reminded me so much of Ann Voskamp’s ‘The Broken Way.” “How do you live with your one broken heart?” Ann suggests that broken hearts are hearts broken open to love. And how heavy this is when our hearts are broken open to love with LOSS. I feel I am learning how grief is just another word for love.. Thinking of you all today.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      Those are beautiful thoughts, Carrie. Thank you.

      Reply
  3. Joelle
    July 2, 2018

    Tearfully beautiful. Less words to a post like this says more. Thank you of sharing.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      Thanks for loving us, Joelle.

      Reply
  4. Emily
    July 2, 2018

    Love you all.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      Love you too.

      Reply
  5. Catharine
    July 2, 2018

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your grief & providing others support through it.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      I truly hope it helps other grieving parents and the ones who love them. Thank you, Catharine.

      Reply
  6. Paula
    July 2, 2018

    Everything you write about Kalkidan fills me with both deep sorrow and great joy. Her light was bright.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      You are part of our memories of her, Paula. Love to your family.

      Reply
  7. Erin Turner
    July 2, 2018

    Thank you for sharing this raw, true beauty. So touching and powerful to read of a father’s love.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      Thank you, Erin. I appreciate your encouraging words.

      Reply
  8. Teresa
    July 2, 2018

    It’s been 23 years since my daughter died. My husband and I have thought of her every day since. This type of grief is unlike any other. One never truly gets over this, just learns to live with it. Its much like a scar from a gaping wound. My heart goes out to Lisa and her family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 2, 2018

      It’s hard for people to imagine how hard this grief is to resolve. We should grow old and die before our children do – or at least it seems so. Thanks for commenting, Teresa.

      Reply
  9. jen
    July 7, 2018

    Oh, how this takes my breath away! Thank you for sharing this sweetness, though it is hard.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      July 10, 2018

      Jen, thank you. I really appreciate you commenting.

      Reply

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