However, a couple of weeks ago one performance completely left me feeling like I had been punched in the gut and left a seasoned veteran performer like Keith Urban in tears. Kelly Clarkson, the first American Idol, performed a heart-wrenching song called Piece By Piece. If you'd like to watch the performance, here is a link (but I recommend you get tissues ready beforehand). I don't usually get emotional during American Idol, but there was something different about this song. It is a song of redemption, but every story of redemption begins with pain.
The song tells the story of a mother whose dad walked out on her when she was 6 years old. Here's the first line: "And all I remember is your back walking toward the airport leaving us all in your past." Let that image sink in for a moment: a little girl watching as her dad walks out of her life forever. I've tried to put myself in that little girl's shoes so many times but I just can't. I wish I could...because my daughter has a pair of those shoes.
I love bedtime with the kids. Bedtime always includes reading books, saying prayers, laughing, passing gas- you know- normal kid stuff. But with all of my kids I like to watch them fall asleep. Each kid likes us to do different things to them to help them fall asleep: Luke likes us to lay down in his bed, Noah likes mommy to scratch his back and Adam likes me to put my arm over his chest.
Elli likes me to rub her back with a blanket. She hands me a particular corner of her blanket and says, "Daddy, like this," showing me how to hold the corner of the blanket. Then she rolls over on her stomach and pulls up her shirt so the blanket can touch her skin. For 10 minutes I lay there and rub her back with the corner of her blanket. As my arm begins to cramp I watch her eyes as she drifts off into sleep.
As she does I often wonder about what image (if any) she has of her biological father. She was so young at the time he abandoned her, so I don't know what she remembers. But I wonder how she would sing that line of the song, "And all I remember was your back..." I wish I could stand in her shoes.
But the song is a song of redemption. Another man came into her life that I hope will describe what I have become for my beautiful girl:
But piece by piece, he collected me up
Off the ground where you abandoned things.
And piece by piece he filled the holes
That you burned in me at six years old and you know
He never walks away
He never asks for money
He takes care of me 'cause he loves me
Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind and a father should be great.
I know there are holes burned in Elli's heart. You don't easily get over being abandoned. But with every stroke of her soft, black hair, every gentle kiss to her forehead, every tickle fight, every book I read to her at night, every time I comfort her when she cries and every soft touch of her blanket on her back, I am picking up the pieces and shoveling unconditional love into her heart.
And I hope, piece by piece, as I love her, we are rewriting the first line of her song. And every night I pray she will she will grow to learn that a man can be kind and a father should be great.