On the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Ancestory.com made their database available to the public to research World War II veterans. That is how I found out that my father had been dead for over ten years.
If you've read any of my previous blog posts, you'll be aware that my father was absent for most of my life. He and my mother separated when I was three years old and divorced when I was four, in an era when divorce was not common. When I was a young adult, my mother told me he had visited once, when I was around six. She had asked him not to tell me he was my father because she feared (rightly so, it turned out) that he would never visit again.
It must have been a good visit, because at one point I put my arms around his neck and said to her, “I really like this man.” Try as I might, I cannot dredge up that memory, nor do I have any photos of him. He's a complete stranger to me.
Since he had nothing to do with my upbringing (on top of all his other sins, he was a deadbeat as well), you would think that learning about his death would have little impact. You would be wrong.
There's something deep inside us that longs to know who we belong to. Even though I was a middle aged adult, there was a faint hope in my heart that someday – someday – I would get a change to meet him. What I hoped to get out of that meeting, I couldn't tell you.
The pragmatic side of me figured he'd probably hit me up for money I didn't have, or perhaps an organ donation after a lifetime of dissipation. Was this a road I really wanted to go down? But the abandoned child in me was hoping for a daddy. I grew up with an orphaned spirit.
Please understand that I am not comparing myself to children in third world countries who are completely destitute. I am well aware I was blessed to have a grandmother who cared for me. I was fed and clothed. Nor am I saying that I am a victim; I am not playing the fatherless card. But I had been abandoned by the most important figures in my life – my parents. Because of that, the idea of relating to God as a Father has been a challenge throughout my life.
It’s not that God hasn’t been demonstrating or speaking of His love to me. Rather, it’s that I haven’t been able to receive it. Trust was damaged, and once broken it is very difficult to repair. Nonetheless, God is persistent. Over the years, through countless situations, He has revealed Himself to really care about even the smallest areas of my life. Proving that someone, indeed, claimed me for His own. I wasn’t orphaned, I was adopted…by the best Dad in the world.
Healing has been slow. It’s taken decades and I’m not completely whole even now. There have been powerful Divine encounters that completely blew the lid off of everything I thought I knew. There have been quiet moments that affirmed His love. It begs the question – why doesn’t He just do one big healing, set me straight and get it all over with?
I really don’t know.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.