Father’s Day has always been a day of fun and celebration since our first child, Ashley, was born in 1993. I helped Ashley make handprint crafts to show her adoration for her father. As our family got larger with the arrivals of Corinne and Jordan, the celebration got bigger. When the girls were small, I helped them make gifts, put on plays and performances showing their dad how special he was. As the girls got older, they thoughtfully came up with ways to honor their dad. It has grown into a friendly, and sometimes fierce, competition of who came up with the best gift. They have serenaded him with songs, created parodies and presented amazing art projects all to show Akhil that he is a special dad. (The video below is a birthday song but this is the type of "gifts" we give.)
While there are things Akhil cannot do, there are many things crucial to a good relationship that he can do; things that I consider gifts from ALS. The disease has taken away Akhil’s ability to hug his daughters but he can express his approval, admiration and love for them with his facial expression. The girls can see the joy radiating from his face and they know they have made him proud. On the flip side, there is no need for verbal chastisement when they need correction as Akhil can express all he needs to say with a look.
ALS has taken Akhil’s ability to work. Prior to ALS, Akhil was immersed in his career and travels frequently took him away from the family. He missed out on concerts, recitals and relationship-building moments because of his job. Now that he is not working, he is always available. The girls come to him and recount the goings-on of their days, something he was not part of when he was working. Most importantly, he has been given the gift of time, time to listen, really listen to his children without other obligations pulling at him.
While ALS has taken a lot from Akhil, it has given to him as well. Akhil has been given time to build relationships with his daughters. He knows them better now than before he was sick because he has time to listen and they seek him out to talk to him. They feel closer to their dad as a result of the constant communication with him.
ALS has given us a bit of a glimpse of our heavenly Father through Akhil. Like Akhil, He is always there for us, patiently listening to us voice our every thought from the trivial to the life-changing. Just as the girls feel close to Akhil the more they talk to him, so too, do we feel closer to God the more we talk to Him. We feel Akhil’s love for us even though he can’t express it verbally or physically, just as God’s love. It is a silent love that we can rest in knowing is there.
This Father’s Day, we recognize that gifts aren’t always in the form we expect. There can be joy in times of hardship and sadness. When it seems things in life are being taken away, chances are, things are also being given - we just have to look for them.