THAT DAY in late December 2014, I felt a new sense of elation, bliss, contentment at a level which all of my fathering years had yet never felt before.
Like it was yesterday, I remember the overwhelming, majestic very first very moment that each of my three boys entered this world. Like it was yesterday, I remember how it felt when my wife and only son (at the time) returned from their first vacation without me… like angels descending from heaven back into my life. I remember and savor these and so many treasured fatherhood moments with my three boys.
On THIS day however in late December 2014, everything in my trove of “fatherhood feelings” was awestruck and spellbound. THIS ONE, I was clueless about. I did not know what to expect. My anxiety was truthfully through the roof. I listened to the Imam as he walked us all through the doctrinally-ordained steps of the process of marrying my son–my heart beating wildly, my brain still spinning full throttle, my every emotion in head-on collision. As I stood frozen in time with my eyes locked onto my son’s face, I witnessed a smile across his face that was more beautiful, overwhelming than I ever imagined could exist.
My world stopped.
Right then, I knew that this moment was right up there along with the very moment of his birth, though on an entirely different and yet unexplainable scale. The closest feeling I compare that moment to is the sense of awe, love, optimism, relief, and joy you feel in seeing the holy ka’ba for the first time – or when you close your eyes and imagine the gates of heaven.
Folks, it’s been two months now and it has taken this 20+ year father that long to figure out these feelings. List person that I am, I have spliced out THAT day into three feelings: (1) I felt parental reassurance, pride, and joy to see my son’s smile radiate from his heart; (2) I felt engulfed in open floodgates of grace befitting only of the Source of all Love, as my heart filled with love and respect for my son’s fiancé; and (3) …what that one is much more self-centered and requires some introductory explanation.You see, back many years ago, it took this younger enthusiastic father quite some time to resolve myself that my wife and I have indeed “stopped” at three children… three wonderful boys. To be brutally honest, it was even a few more years after THAT when it ALL sank in: that, as my wife says, I can indeed ONLY look forward to having daughters in heaven if that is what I want so much, since in heaven you can have anything and everything you imagine. It sunk in that 3 boys are my mission in life without the anticipation and hope to ever “qualify” for our Prophetic promise that “whoever excels in raising three (or two, or one) daughter is promised heaven.” I no longer even held a chance.
Don’t get me wrong folks, I’m more than thrilled with my three boys. I cherish the fatherhood that’s been gifted to me by God. I love the rough-and-tumble, sports and fishing and insects, the brotherly teasing and pranks, the horseplay and dogpiles, the hugs and high-fives. I love all of that and contently tucked away what all of that is not: a daughter.
And on THAT day, it hit me.
So while felling #1 and #2 were entirely logical and expected, what still has me giddy and goofy with joy is that feeling # 3 was that this father of three boys PLUS a daughter-in-law has now either stepped foot into heaven or had a piece of heaven come straight to me. Just when I thought my fathering moments slowed down with my oldest son, here comes the upgrade to my fatherhood: a daughter-in-law.
To the ONE Loving Lord and Source of all joy: I am indescribably grateful and humbled by Your heavenly gift: Fatherhood, Level 2.