A Daddy’s Love

By most measures, my father was a failure. He married far too young and had too many children. He never made enough money to support his family. For much of his life, he didn’t work at all. He collected diseases and disorders (real and imagined) in almost as great numbers as his ubiquitous action figures. And then, without fanfare, he up and died. At 55. Not much to write home about.

With his firstborn--clearly the most perfect baby the world had ever seen.

With my brother, his firstborn. He wrote us in an email once, “I was unprepared for how very much I love you.”

But, oh, my Daddy loved me. He loved me and my mother and my siblings so well and so hard that in so many ways his love almost defines us. He didn’t just tell us we were wonderful–he honestly believed, with everything he was, that we were the five most incredible people ever to walk the face of the planet. He bought my mother skimpy outfits in the hopes she’d wear them around town because he knew she was super hot and–apparently–wanted everyone else to know, too. He told my awkward preteen older brother that every girl he ever saw had the hots for him. He wrote me email after email just telling me (for no particular reason) that he loved me and was so proud of me. He thought my sister was the most talented singer, the most talented soccer player, the most amusing young woman there had ever been–with the exception of me and my mother, with whom she was tied. And just try to convince him that my little brother wasn’t the best-looking kid at his confirmation (to which he wore my father’s brown tweed bell-bottom wedding suit). He would have none of it.

With my older brother and me.

With my older brother and me.

He saw what was good in us and, whatever his flaws, he loved us so desperately that we began to believe him. Any time I talk to women about beauty, I tell them how deeply my father loved me. Any time I talk to men about being protectors, I tell them to be like my daddy. Because even at my worst, even when I was absolutely convinced that I was fat and ugly and completely unlovable, I knew that my daddy loved me. And I knew that if he loved me, maybe somebody else could. Even when everything in me and everything around me was telling me that I was worthless, I couldn’t quite believe it. My daddy, after all, was completely enamored of me. Here’s part of a poem he wrote me for my 24th birthday:

you have always
made
the sun
seem boring
floating about

in the radiant
beauty
that is you

The first picture with all six of us.

The first picture with all six of us.

It took years for me to begin to believe that maybe he was right–that maybe there was something special about me. It took Christ, really. But when I began to read how deeply Christ loved me, I accepted it, because I’d felt that love before. When I fell at my knees at the foot of the cross, confessing my sins against one who’d loved me so deeply, his forgiveness felt familiar. My daddy forgave me the same way–completely and gladly, as though my sin had been entirely washed away.

He must have been remarkable if I was prompted (out of nowhere) to send him this a few years back.

He must have been remarkable if I was prompted (out of nowhere) to send him this a few years back.

When I heard about a Father who loved me, I accepted it without question. Of course my Father loved me–that’s what fathers do. It was years before I realized what a gift that was, years before I understood that so many people struggle their whole lives to accept the love of the Father because of the wounds they hold from their earthly fathers. My father wasn’t perfect, but he never failed in the one thing that mattered most: love.

A family picture with all of us...up till now, anyway. You can see from his expression that he wasn't well.

A family picture with all of us…up till now, anyway. You can see from his face that he wasn’t well.

Eighteen years ago, my father got sick. Mentally, emotionally, physically. He withdrew from almost everything. He stopped doing anything around the house. He stopped even leaving the house. He missed almost every concert and play I had in high school. He made life really hard for us and I was so angry at him. But even then, even when he couldn’t always act like he loved me, I never once questioned his love. Because it was so obvious in everything he did. Because the only thing that pulled him out of himself was us. Because when I search for “Figglety” (his inscrutable nickname for me) in my email, I find dozens of random emails in which he just tells me–unprompted by any discernible cause–that he loves me and is proud of me. Whatever his flaws, he loved me.

My daddy taught me that I was worthy of love. He taught me how to accept love. And he gave me a model of how to love. If I love one person half as well as he loved us, I’ll count it a life well lived.

What kind of man inspires a look like that on the face of his wife of 26 (now 24) years? The last thing my mother said about my father on Facebook: "You think your daddy and I are boring. You are completely uninspired by our proposal that wasn't, not really. You used to think we were dumb because "our song" is Mozart's 41st. But how can a man be boring when he promises his life to you? No, Jonathan, you're never boring—except when you are, and we're both happy about that!"

What kind of man inspires a look like that on the face of his wife of 26 (now 34) years?

The last thing my mother said about my father on Facebook was this: “You [kids] think your daddy and I are boring. You are completely uninspired by our proposal that wasn’t, not really. You used to think we were dumb because “our song” is Mozart’s 41st. But how can a man be boring when he promises his life to you? No, Jonathan, you’re never boring—except when you are, and we’re both happy about that!” After 34 years of marriage–a hard marriage that many would have said she had every right to get out of–he was still completely hers, as madly in love with her as on the day they married.

I haven't mentioned how silly he was. I'm sure this ridiculous picture was his idea.

I haven’t mentioned how silly he was. I’m sure this ridiculous picture was his idea.

He was a difficult man to live with but until the day I die I will be grateful for the daddy he was. By many accounts, he was a failure. But if we forget the “accomplishments” of his life and look at the meaning of his life–a wife and four children who walked every day of their lives in the knowledge that they were deeply and unconditionally loved–it’s hard not to stand in wonder at a broken man who never wanted to be anything more than Daddy.

Of course, I’m a little heartbroken. Death hurts. But it hurts because it’s wrong, not because it’s bad. We weren’t made to die. We weren’t made to be separated. And I miss my Daddy. But I’d been missing him, in a sense, for 18 years. And now–finally–he’s the man he used to be again, free from everything that hurt and twisted him. He’s whole and healed and joyful. And really, I’m just so thankful for God’s timing in this. He’d just recently returned to the Sacraments and I keep finding myself on my knees before the Blessed Sacrament saying over and over again, “I’m so grateful, I’m so grateful.” I’m so, so thankful that he went now and not six months ago. To die in a state of grace: what more could you ask?

Timmy had just thrown a ball which bounced off my mother's head and into our dog's mouth. It was epic.

Timmy had just thrown a ball which bounced off my mother’s head and into our dog’s mouth. It was epic. Notice how we’re all looking at the camera. My daddy is looking at us.

My father loved the Lord so much. He was hungry for heaven and had been for years. He was living a Sacramental life–and oh, thank God for that–and I’m not afraid for him. Really, I’m so glad for him. He had been in so much pain for so long and now he’s free and home or heading there. The last email I sent him was terse and rather patronizing and I tried to feel guilty about it but then I remembered–in the communion of saints, we are still together. So I told him I was sorry and reminded him how much I love him and he heard and now all that’s left is joy in who he was and joy in who he’s becoming and hope for when we meet again.

Daddy Mary Claire

Grandaddy with his youngest grandbaby. He’s absolutely captivated by her. She’s absolutely captivated by his beard.

Would y’all take a minute to pray for my father (Jonathan Hunter-Kilmer) and for my family? If you want to get to know him a little better, my sister wrote a beautiful tribute here and his sister (one of many) tells some great stories about his childhood here. The funeral will be Saturday, December 7, at 2pm at St. Mark Catholic Church in Vienna, VA.

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troublous life,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over,
and our work done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy,
grant us safe lodging,
a holy rest,
and peace at the last;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Bl. John Henry Newman

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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24 Responses to A Daddy’s Love

  1. Peggy says:

    Praying for you, your family and your Dad…. I’m so sorry. May he rest in His peace.

  2. Melissa says:

    Beautiful, Meg. Thank you.

    We are so blessed to have had Daddy, and I am so glad that he died in his sleep at home instead of with a million interventions at the hospital.

  3. Meg, this is beautiful! If someone needed proof that your dad was a great man, they could just look to the woman he committed his life to and the children he raised. I am praying for you guys!!
    Rabia @TheLiebers recently posted…10 on Tuesday: Christmas and Advent Books for KidsMy Profile

  4. Leslie Anderson says:

    I really enjoyed the late summer and fall when your father had taken to waving at me when I went by. It really tickled me, this quiet man really waved at me like hed know me for years. I mentioned this to your mother, her response ” I taught him that!”

  5. This is beautiful, Meg. I’m praying hard for all of you.
    We sat near your parents in church two weeks ago, and your dad was watching my daughter, Nora, almost the whole time. She was being so silly- pointing out the pictures in her little baby Bible and asking her daddy over and over “Where Baby Moses did go now?” – I felt bad at first that she was being so distracting, but it seemed like your dad was really enjoying her. I ended up deciding there is more than one way to be close to God at Mass.
    Peace to you and your family during this difficult time.

  6. Andrea says:

    Meg, now we have another commonality, my Poppi died at 55 from what we thought was diabetic reaction. They INSISTED on an autopsy ( unheard of for his cause of death) and found metastisized cancer that might have been prostate. His body just gave up. He never got to see us married, or mothers, or grandmothers because he was 32 when they married and we were 20 and21 when he died. My Mom followed 15 months later. Although she had many problems from polio, she also smoked like a chimnney and cold turkey quit. That may have triggered the stroke that killed her but I believe she died of a broken heart at 58

    Some future day, check out the last Kathleen Norris book: Acedia and Me. Might help you…. in the meantime, be good to yourselves, and be gentle with eachother, and know many hold you in the Light

  7. Angela says:

    I am happy to offer my prayers for you, your family, and your daddy’s soul. Love from a father is a very great thing, and I know what a treasure it is to have the knowledge that he loved you deeply.

  8. Vicki Hill says:

    Meg,
    Your daddy was a man of quiet strength. Even in his illnesses, he displayed beauty, hunbleness and loyalty for the simpleness of life. It is far harder to receive in this life than to give. Your daddy did that with grace and thankfulness. Your daddy was a king in his own rite. He faced terror, adversity, and human judgment with endurance. I never looked at your father as a failure but as a man that understood riches. We live by human and earthly definition and so many times forget the definition of God. Your daddy knew God’s definition of faith and love well. I praise God for the opportunities of walking these earthly steps with your father. Your dad taught me much. Thank you, Jonathan and Meg, for sharing the eternal gifts that hold value into eternity.

  9. Thank you for sharing this, Meg. What a gift it is for you to have a father who images Christ’s love in such a real way! I’m happy for him, and praying for your whole family.
    Christina Grace recently posted…Spiritual Direction: What Is It Good For?My Profile

  10. Mary Beth says:

    Meg, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your dad. I lost my dad last year and I miss him terribly but also know he is happier than I can ever imagine in the presence of God. Your beautiful dad and you and your family will be in my prayers.

    May God Bless you and help you find peace at this difficult time.

  11. Jamie says:

    Meg,

    When I heard you speak recently in Mobile I was so moved by your description of your daddy’s love. You see, I have one of those daddies too. The ones that love you in a way that is really indescribable. A man who makes his daughter feel beautiful and loved despite society’s attempt to tell us all we’re not enough is not a failure. He is wildly successful at the most important thing in life; sharing God’s love.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

  12. Julia Lawson says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers for you and your family.

  13. Margaret says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder of what really matters as a parent, Meg. What a gift to have a dad who loved you so much.
    We will keep praying for your family.

  14. Beth Staab says:

    Praying for you, your family, and him. What a beautiful tribute, it brought me to tears.

  15. Dorothy says:

    Oh Meg! What a beautiful tribute to your dad. Will pray for his soul …and will pray for the Lord to bless your family through this grace filled time.

  16. Libby says:

    So sorry to hear about your loss! You and your family will be in my prayers. Thank you for the beautiful words.

  17. John Sikorski says:

    Meg, Thank you for your words and deep faith. They bring tears to my eyes as they remind me of so many things associated with my own father’s passing last year. You’ll all be in my prayers, and you are so right to know and trust in the communion of saints and the merciful love of Jesus. Blessings and prayers! -John

  18. Kay says:

    Wow…I’ve never met you, your siblings or your dad. But I have recently met your Mom thru her pumpkin patch. We are neighbors. I have learned much about your family thru these posts. My sympathies to you all. I hope to get to know Melissa more.

  19. Praying for you and your whole family, Meg.
    Nancy Piccione recently posted…Worth a Listen: The Advent ConspiracyMy Profile

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  21. Ruth says:

    Sorry for your loss Meg! Praying for all of you.

  22. Cynthia says:

    My aunt died a little under a month ago. I’ll certainly pray for your father. Maybe a Divine Mercy Chaplet tomorrow afternoon….

  23. Pauline says:

    Thank you for sharing thoughts and ways of your father. Fathers are the visial picture of God. I know I learned to love God by my father’s words, ways and examples. My father told us lots and lots of stories from the bible which I treasure. My father died on april of 1960 but in my quiete moments and in my trials, I still hear his words of wisdom. i.e. “if you worry you die, if you don’t you die… a little bit later. One thing I jusgest to do for your father, Pay for as many masses as you can. I say Hail Mary Full of Grace the Lord is with thee.

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