When I was six years old, as part of his military service, my dad was stationed in Japan. We had moved to California the year before, and looking back, I’m amazed at how my mom handled all the transitions. As a little first grader though, I supposed I hadn’t lived long enough to realize that all of these changes in a short period of time were a little out of the ordinary. So I just rolled with the punches, and waited for my dad to come home.
Thankfully, my dad’s time away didn’t keep him from celebrating any of the major holidays with us. He did, however, miss Valentine’s Day. I still remember my feeling of wonderment when someone came to the door and delivered flowers to my mom and red balloons to me and my sister. Each balloon pictured a rabbit holding a bouquet and above it, some message of affection. I was thrilled. Even from far away, my daddy was thinking of me and sending me his love.
It meant all the more because it was sort of an unusual gesture for my dad. See, my dad loved all his girls, and was more expressive than most guys with his words of affection. But, he was also pragmatic. Normally, he would have been more inclined to take us out for a fun day filled with lasting memories, then to give us a mylar balloon that would quickly deflate. But since distance and the 13 time zones that separated us prevented that, he did what he could to make sure we knew we were loved.
The ironic thing is that although my dad wasn’t prone to giving “disposable” gifts because of their relatively short shelf life, I kept that balloon for years. It was a poignant reminder of my daddy’s love. And my life was filled with such reminders. Tokens of affection, moments of instruction, and time spent together that let me know my dad considered his relationship with me an important one.
When my dad passed away, numerous people came up to my sister and I after the service to tell us that they hope that when they died, their children would say half of the good things that we said about our dad. I remember distinctly thinking, “You can still make that happen.” They still had the opportunity to purposefully and intentionally show their children their love. That’s what my daddy did. Whether it was with a rabbit holding a bouquet of flowers, or through always having a listening ear, he lived a life of love. And it was because of that intentional way of living, that when he passed away, everyone, from co-workers to family to friends, knew what was important to him. After all, Jesus made it very clear that people would know we are His by how we love. And what was most important to my dad, was to be Christ’s kid.
So whether it’s Valentine’s Day or a “normal day” may we all purposefully look for ways to show love. And in doing so, may we do what my dad did – give other people reminders and memories to hang on to so that they can have confidence that they are loved. Not only by us, but most importantly, by their Father above.