I remember, like it was yesterday, holding her shell of tender skin in my callous hands. Each day I would come home to hear some new thing she did or learned. She grew to know my sweat-soaked, musty, saw-dusty smell. I once heard, “This tree smells like Dad”, as if her little mind viewed my earthy aroma scenting that mass of creation.
Time flew. Children grew. She led the way to all things new. She carried the weight of being the big sister and the oldest child. She carried the weight of expectations; from parents and grandparents and more; of how our children should live out their faith, perform in school, choose their friends, or otherwise behave. She carried the weight of the hardest chores, changing diapers, driving kids around and more. She rarely complained.
God knew that being the first would require courage and He made sure she had it. Being the first of 5 children in a 7-year span would require initiative, and He made sure she had that too. She cut her own path and made important things happen for herself knowing we couldn’t provide the help others her age often got from their parents. God uniquely gifted her to be first-born.
Last Thursday, Tara and I dropped her off at school eight hours away. What I thought would be emotional turned out to be an exciting time for me. Okay, it was a little emotional. But I remember how I felt 29 years ago when I went off to college. It was exhilarating for me. I was ready then. She is ready now.
My prayer is simply that God would reveal Himself to her daily and give her the courage to follow regardless of the cost. My fatherly instinct to protect her must now be curbed. I am no longer her daily fatherly influence, rather her Heavenly Father is. But my love for her will continue to grow as she will always be that precious first-born daughter that God entrusted to us for the past 18 years. I love her, I am proud of her, and I will really miss her.