This month on the 26th, we are choosing celebration because it is Paige Marie’s 21st birthday. While I am Paige’s only living parent, she is still the fruit of the womb that God gave to my husband and me. Nothing will ever change that. Patrick will always be a vital part of the equation. He invested into Paige’s life whole-heartedly from the day she was born until the day he died. Now through his legacy, Paige continues on becoming the woman God wants her to be.
Paige came into the world three weeks early and was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 10 oz. In fact, all the nurses wanted to come in and see her since they were so accustomed to delivering larger babies. But don’t let her small size fool you, she was healthy as an ox and 24 hours later, we were shoved out the hospital doors and on our way home.
From the get go, there wasn’t a job that Patrick refused to do. He was a hands-on dad in every area. In fact, he hated it when other men said they had to “babysit” their kids. His thinking was that it’s not babysitting, it’s parenting!
Patrick didn’t believe in separate rules or expectations for girls and boys. He pretty much expected the same thing from both kids. Therefore, there was nothing he didn’t teach Paige to do simply because she was a girl. From fishing, soccer and golf to mowing the lawn and shoveling snow; to earning a dollar and finding a deal; from how to speak up, look others in the eye and shake a hand; to Notre Dame and the Tigers; to cooking and eating…Patrick taught it and Paige learned it.
Looking back, I would say Paige was a “daddy’s girl.” But definitely not in the typical way…She was no coddled princess who could get her daddy to let her do anything. No way, José! Patrick certainly didn’t want a spoiled prima donna. He wanted a hard working, common sense, fun loving, Jesus-following girl. He was firm with Paige and she hated to disappoint him; just that “look” from Daddy and she responded accordingly.
In our first home in Kentucky, Patrick would wake 3-year old Paige up at midnight and carry her onto the back deck to watch the raccoons emerge out of the woods. Fifteen years later, after he was diagnosed with ALS, Patrick planned a trip to California to visit family and he insisted on taking Paige with him. From toddler to teenager, he wanted his daughter with him every chance he had.
Patrick was diagnosed with his fatal disease when Paige was 18, in the middle of her senior year. He insisted life continue as normal. Paige went on college visits and participated in all the end-of-the-year events. At her graduation, Patrick was still standing tall, but had slowed down in many ways. In her cap and gown, we snapped a family photo that to this day is the background image on my phone.
All summer, we kept hoping for the effects of ALS to slow down; we were desperate for more time. As it drew closer for Paige to leave for college, we had a difficult discussion. Should she start college or postpone it? She knew the facts…Patrick was dying; we didn’t know if he even had a year left, but we doubted it.
Her college was a couple hours away; Many people offered to help get her back quickly if needed. I promised honest communication. Patrick wanted her to go and told her so, but we didn’t want her to feel pushed away.
The decision was hers and she bravely began her college journey under the worst possible circumstances.
But God in His goodness saw that she was right where she needed to be. In a small Christian environment where many new friends, leaders and professors ministered to her. When she returned the following semester after her daddy died, her support group had been established. They were ready and understanding. It would have been more difficult had she waited to start.
Late in the fall, after a short weekend visit, Paige left us a note on our bathroom counter. After he read it, Patrick sobbed. I’d never seen anything like it. Watching someone with ALS cry isn’t easy; I wanted to stop it. He finally was able to communicate to me how despondent he felt because he wasn’t going to be here on earth to watch Paige grow into an adult. He told me he was far more heart broken for us than for himself. His fatherly heart was torn in two; It was heart wrenching.
After her first semester ended, Paige was able to spend Patrick’s last few weeks on earth by his side, helping to take care of him. Nothing fazed her and she was a trooper treating him with respect, even while watching her once strong daddy now lay paralyzed and helpless. She acted normal and made him laugh. Just sitting next to him in silence, the love between them was palpable.
Often as Patrick was declining, I begged God that He would allow both the kids and I to be present whenever God decided to take him to Heaven. I wanted it to be our final time as a family of four. We needed to be together.
And in God’s sovereign plan, he designed Patrick’s home going to be over the holidays. I know many people felt that the timing was awful, but truthfully, it was going to be awful no matter when it happened.
I firmly believe the timing was an answer to my prayer. Even though Patrick went into a coma on Christmas Eve, God in his graciousness allowed the three of us to be by his side when he breathed his last breath the day after Christmas.
I will never forget Paige’s wailing sobs as she left his side for the last time. There was no consoling this girl. Nothing could diminish this level of pain.
At his service, she insisted on sharing a testimony about her dad. She wrote it, gave it to me to read, and it was perfect. No changes were made and she stood bravely in front of over 1,000 people and talked about her hero. Her voice didn’t crack and she didn’t break down. I was in awe.
Father and daughter share numerous similarities. Both love to eat and laugh. They like the “shortened” versions of a story and things that aren’t overly complicated. They’ve never met a stranger and have a lot of common sense. They don’t need the newest gadget or name brand clothes. They don’t try particularly hard to impress others but are friendly to all and “what you see is what you get.”
A few months after Patrick died, I made some comment to Paige about how I wished I had stayed by his side more while he was sick. My thinking was that if I would have known how short his time was, I wouldn’t have ever left his side. Paige looked at me and told me clearly and calmly, “Mom, Dad isn’t in Heaven wishing that you would have done something differently while he was sick. You did your best and he’s now healthy and with Jesus.” It was just like something Patrick would have said to me and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I never said it again.
Losing her dad forever changed Paige’s life. But she knows what a special daddy she had and how blessed she is. Since his death, Paige has bravely continued on with her college education. She has made wise, practical decisions and continues to seek to honor the Lord with her life. Patrick would be thrilled.
Paige – Today on your 21st birthday, be assured of the following…
- You are loved deeply by both your parents.
- Your daddy was so proud of you. He loved every second with you and the two of you definitely had a special bond.
- He was a man of God and many girls in this world don’t have dads like yours.
- Dad held your hand and guided you as faithfully as he could until God released him from that job.
- He is now in Heaven worshiping the Heavenly Father whom he pointed you toward.
- If God allows him to have snapshots into your life now, I know he is proud of the woman you are becoming.
- You know many of the things Dad would keep telling you if he were here, but foremost among them would be to “Keep running hard after Christ.” And the next would probably be “Happy Birthday, Pump.”
Psalms 103:13 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”