As a human, I often ruminate on the effect my choices, decisions and blunders have upon others. As a parent all of this is magnified, and even knowing that my kids have become wonderful adults, there are always questions, concerns, doubts and fears.
At Heather’s wedding Saturday, I was struck with a sense of panic and fear as I was asked to join my daughter for a traditional father-daughter dance. I feared partly because I have not danced for many, many years (I was never an avid dancer), partly because I am crippled with knee and back pain (due largely to a car accident in 1991) and I walk with a cane, but mostly because a wave of unworthiness swept over me as I had been watching this beautiful young woman become Mrs. McColloch: I felt that I had little to do with the goodness I was observing, and that she was succeeding in life and had blossomed into a beautiful woman of God in spite of me.
Trying to put on a happy face as I walked towards my daughter to accept this honor, I fought hard to hold back burgeoning tears. Then Ben made a comment about me feeling free to cry (like you could have stopped me!) as he began the song: Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella,” which has always made me cry since its release in late 2007 when my youngest daughter, Megan, was preparing for her wedding. Struggling to lift a left arm that suddenly felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds I fumblingly put my arm around my radiant daughter as she simply smiled, looked up at me and put her left hand on my cane-hand (knowing that this third leg was an inseparable element to my dance efforts), and her right arm around me.
The music continued and I struggled to dance as well as I could, thinking hard on what to do with the cane, how to move it and use it and trying to keep from looking like a complete idiot who hadn’t danced for decades. Then a few seconds in, Heather looked up at me with all of that radiance and beauty I had been observing from afar. As her eyes met mine I instantly melted into a puddle. I returned her gaze and my defenses dropped, and I felt an amazing love that let me know everything was OK. The music tugged at my heart but also made my spirit soar as I danced with my Cinderella; people around us faded away; my cane became merely an appendage that I nearly forgot was there; I stopped thinking about HOW to dance and simply moved in the moment; and in an instant the weight dropped off my arm. For those few short minutes to the song’s end only the two of us existed. And we danced. The fears fell away; my self-doubts, questions and unreasonable concerns all disappeared. And I felt loved. Nothing else mattered but the two of us. She looked at me with unspeakable joy, and an aura of loving gratitude. I looked at her in awe: this beautiful woman is my daughter! God allowed me the privilege of having a hand in making this gem, and she is truly priceless. We talked and we cried. I wiped a tear from her face, and got to tell Heather how proud I am of her, and of who she has become. And as we communed there in front of dozens of family and friends, we were all alone. No one, and nothing else, mattered.
When all was said and done the song faded away, the dance ended, other people came back into focus, and the party continued. But this snippet of time – these special, indescribable few minutes – will live on in my heart and will linger in my mind for the rest of my life. Am I now perfect? Far from it! Are all of my fears, doubts and needless concerns behind me? No way! But I can tell you with all sincerity that I have been forever changed. This dance – this magical moment – and the beautiful, loving, entrancing look on Heather’s face, will be with me always. And I am a better man for having been her father. What a perfect way to end this epoch in my life, with our last child moving out of the house and moving on with her new life, as my wife and I also begin our new life together.
This father of the bride is one happy, sappy, teddy bear mush pot! And proud of it.