Father’s Day is dreaded by many fatherless children and their mothers because it accentuates their loss and loneliness. But did you know that Father’s Day grew out of a loss? It began because there was a girl who was motherless. In 1909, upon hearing a Mother’s Day sermon at a church in Spokane, Washington, Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to see a similar day for fathers. She had been 16 years old when her mother died in 1898, and her father, William Jackson Smart, raised her and her five younger brothers by himself on a farm in eastern Washington.
Because of her persistence, churches in Spokane observed the first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. Father’s Day slowly gained recognition across the United States and in 1972 it was placed on our calendars by a proclamation from President Richard M. Nixon. Today it’s celebrated in over 50 other countries too!
This world-wide event is one example of how loss can produce a great blessing. But if Father’s Day tops your list of “worst holidays ever,” here are some ideas other widows have shared with me in the past. Why not choose one to try or adapt for this year?
1. Even though he’s gone and won’t get to read it, I buy my husband a Father’s Day card every year. It might seem strange or silly to some, but it’s important to me. I write a gratitude list in it for things he wove into our life. I cried in the drugstore buying that card the first two years. Facing the whole display of cards was overwhelming, but picking one out helped neutralize the pain. I don’t cry over cards anymore; now I actually look forward to this tradition.
2. Last year I spoke individually with all five of my children, saying I loved them and wanted to know how they were doing. I also mentioned something about them that their dad especially loved. I was grateful to get through the day, and it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated.
3. I give both of my sons a gift to thank them for being such good dads to my grandchildren. They are good fathers because of their dad.
4. We go to a neighboring town that has a “church in the park” without the Father’s Day message. It’s a place I can cry without anyone making a big deal out of it.
5. The children and I bought “him” a gift that we wanted, and chocolate that we ate. We went to the river and spent time as a family and wrote some funny memories in a book. Father’s Day was very soon after his death and the day loomed large but it was good to do those things.
6. For my first Father’s Day I invited other widows from church to have lunch at my house. The table was filled with ladies older than me, but they had survived widowhood. Those wise women, amidst their laughter and joy at being together, seemed to pass some of their wisdom and strength to me. It was the beginning of many friendships.
7. The children and I spent a quiet day at home. I realized it was important for them to know that the day was dedicated to fathers. The littlest one drew pictures which we stored in her memory box. For dinner we cooked Daddy’s favorite meal together and everyone was happy!
8. For me, another widow put a different spin on the day by reminding me about our wonderful heavenly Father who loves us and never leaves us. So I celebrate “God the Father’s Day,” instead. To honor my Father I do a secret act of kindness.
9. My husband never liked making a big deal about Father’s Day. He would acknowledge the day but not plan anything specific. We will do the same.
10. Both my dad and my husband died within a short time of each other. The first year of Father’s Day was a double load of grief so the kids and I went away to a favorite park. It’s now become a great vacation weekend and I praise the Lord for that! I work hard to keep heart, to focus on the Lord, and to teach the children to do the same.
No matter what you do for Father’s Day this year, count on the Lord to help you through. And perhaps someday, in the same way a national day for fathers grew from the loss of a mother, God will grant something wonderful to grow from your loss. “To console those who mourn…to give them beauty for ashes…” Isaiah 61:3 (NKJV)