In the amazing, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”, Don Miller describes how he grew up with out a dad. He eventually decided to investigate, to try and find his father. Eventually, he gets information that leads him to believe that his father has passed away. He writes, “… to be honest, I missed him. I grieved the death of my father, I suppose. And it’s an odd thing to grieve somebody you never knew.”
I had to stop reading then. This just hit me somewhere so deep I don’t have a name for it. I wasn’t effected for any sort of obvious reason. My dad is alive, has always been part of my life, and I have a great relationship with him. It was something else.
Without quite knowing why, I thought about how my wife and I lost a child while the child was still in the womb. She was just out of the first trimester. This child would have been our second. We were so ill equipped to be parenting a second child at that point: I was unemployed. Our marriage was a bit of a mess. We were still new to the whole parenting thing. We were young, which isn’t a problem, and we were immature, which is a problem.
And yet: I grieved.
I grieved for a being, who by in reasonable definition, I didn’t know. I still grieve a little bit today. I wonder what it would be like to be the dad of four children instead of 3. I have this real sense of loss. Whenever the thought or subject comes up– in conversation or just in my brain– I gasp a little bit.
Miller is right. It’s an odd thing to grieve the loss of somebody you never knew. But it’s built into us. It’s hard for me to imagine growing up with out a dad. But even if I did… if I was in his shoes, I’d feel the same way. I’d grieve.
There is some element of grief and loss that is personal. My grandmother used to make me laugh. I miss her ridiculous and vulgar sense of humor. We don’t have these connections with a person we never met. We don’t know what we are missing. In this sense, it is odd to grieve over a person we’ve never met.
I think that isn’t the whole story though. I think that there is something more to grief than just the personal. This is why we grieve for those we’ve never really known, despite the oddness.
I think that we are constructed to be in certain relationships. We are made to be sons and daughters. We are made to be brothers and sisters. Many of us are made to be parents. We have these holes inside of us that can only be filled by these relationships.
I wonder if when Don Miller felt grief over the dad he never met, if it’s coming from this universal element of grief. I wonder if when I think of the child we lost, if it’s the idea that I could have been a dad to somebody else and I lost that oppurtunity.
I guess I’m supposed to wrap up with some pithy and optimistic thought… but I just don’t have it in me, right now.