My daughter is seventeen today.
If you want to know how fast a blink is…it’s seventeen years.
Seventeen years ago, at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, she made a nearly silent entrance into this world. She was perfect. She was everything I’d hoped she’d be. She changed my life forever.
She continues to change my life.
Seventeen years ago I was a 34 year old man, married for about a year and a half, living in a town very different from the one I grew up in, with a very unhappy wife and a world of doubts weighing on my shoulders.
Morgan was the only thing that made sense to me. Our marriage was already failing, even as we welcomed our first (and only) child. I was living at the convergence of a career crossroads, a personal crossroads, and a marital disaster. Morgan was born on May 7, 1998. By December 1, 1999, I’d be divorced and broken hearted. The only thing I had to show for my three years dream-turned-nightmare was this beautiful, amazing, wonderful, perfect princess we had named Morgan Wray. Morgan because we liked it. Wray was my grandmother’s middle name. It was my tribute to the first really Godly person I ever knew. My grandmother was the sole source of unconditional love in the world I grew up in. She was kind, gentle, incredibly intelligent, and had cultivated a prayer life that literally kept me alive through some of the darkest days I’d been through.
She also possessed one of the most beautiful singing voices I had ever heard. My daughter inherited that as well. Morgan can sing. Not just sing like a teen-aged kid who likes music. She can sing. She lives it. She breathes it. She has an old soul. You won’t catch her listening to very much of what other 17-year-olds listen to. She’s too wise for that. And too battle worn. She has an old soul. Here is one example of her amazing talent. She doesn’t know I found this on You tube, but I discovered it last night.
That’s my daughter. That’s the one and only arrow God placed in my quiver.
It’s been hard being a divorced dad. It was hard from the very beginning. It got much harder when I lost my career and then my home and I was living in the back of a Yukon.
But I stayed when leaving made more sense. I remained and did as much of the job of a dad as was possible. I did all I could. I was there. She never had a recital or a Birthday that her dad wasn’t there, in the crowd, cheering her on.
She is in Nashville at her mom’s for a couple of weeks. I have never missed her birthday before. Not in 17 years. Until today.
It’s not my doing. I’m not faulting myself for this. But it hurts nonetheless. I know how it feels for your birthday to be an afterthought. When I was a kid, for reasons I only understood later in adulthood, mine was exactly that. I swore from the very first, that her birthday would always be cause for a huge celebration. Because of all days on the calendar, I am most happy and thankful for this one.
My Daisy is 17 now. My arrow is almost finished. She’s straight and true and the targets we’ve been practicing on have all been bulls-eyes, for the most part. This fall she begins her college life here at Liberty. She has decided to double major. English and Music. So she can be a better song writer, and she can teach, until her music takes off. That’s my kid. Always setting the bar high.
I’ve almost completed my task. I can’t believe it. Seventeen years. I can still remember every single detail as if it were last night. Her tiny, silent, perfection. Now she is a grown woman. For all intents and purposes, and adult. It’s not that I’m not ready…it’s that I wanted it to take longer.
Divorce cuts a dad’s time down to about 1/3 what it would be in an intact family. Then came homelessness. Where other dads have movies, I have snapshots. But she made it this far and she’s a good kid. I keep working hard, hoping for success, hoping she sees that the enormous battle was worth it.
I still want to be her hero.
I still need to be her hero.
My daughter is seventeen. From her birth, until this very day, each year I think of the lyrics that a dear friend of mine wrote for his son on his first birthday.
“Oh the happiest day I have ever known was the day you took your first breath.
And to watch you grow in the warmth of the sun,
Is the only other wish, I could ever have.
But if cold night winds should begin to howl and if trouble should come your way.
Remember these words I’m telling you now.
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.
Rain will fall, as it surely must
On the heads of the wicked
And the just.
God forbid that rain turn your dreams to rust
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.
On that bittersweet day many years from now when you take your first steps on your own
Remember these words I’m telling you now
As much as I’ve loved you
There is One who loves you more
But if cold night winds should begin to howl and if trouble should come your way
May the warmth of the sun. comfort and guide you
May those cold dark winds stay forever behind you
If you lose your way…know that God will find you
And all your days I pray you’ll call His name.”
My friend Rick Elias wrote that for his son Taylor along time ago.
I copied it here through tears.
I’ve lost my way a thousand times without the benefit of a dad to come and find me.
I have not been able to give my daughter as much as I wanted to,
But I gave her that.
Underneath the turmoil and the heartbreak, she knew her daddy loved her, and loves her to this very hour.
I hope it served her well.
Happy Birthday, Morgan Wray. My sweet, beautiful, Daisy.
For all the doubts I have about my own ability as a man and as a believer…God must have seen something of value in this heart of mine, because He saw fit to entrust you to my care. I hope I have served you well. You are all that a dad could ask for in a daughter and a million times more.
Get ready to fly, my precious arrow. The world will hear your song. I pray the world can feel your heart.
If you lose your way, know that God will find you.
…and your dad will always be here.