Before becoming a hospital chaplain, I thought the worst way a father might lose his daughter was if she met some no-good guy from the other side of the country. But this particular week, I can tell you that isn’t the worst way to lose a daughter.
After leaving a conference with a father whose daughter was dying from cancer, the charge nurse detected the subtle moisture in my eyes. “You OK, chaplain?” she asked. “Yeah, I think so,” I said, “It’s always a little harder when I see the dad cry.” But, according to news coverage this past week, he wasn’t the only dad crying.
The knot in the throat of Dru Sjodin’s father, Allan Sjodin, grew a bit larger this past week as he learned that blood from his missing daughter was found in the car of a man suspected in her disappearance. And just as Dru’s suspected kidnapper was being arraigned, Laci Peterson’s father Dennis Rocha watched his son-in-law arraigned for the murder of Laci and her unborn child.
Capital newspapers in adjoining states carried two less-sensational stories about two other fathers. In Sacramento, police informed Sharmelia Jeffries’ father, Martin Jeffries, that his daughter was struck and killed on the sidewalk outside her high school by a drunk driver. One witness to the accident was the son of a chaplain friend who would later tell his father that he was standing twenty feet from Sharmelia.
The chaplain’s son suffered some emotional trauma from the seeing the accident, but the child of another chaplain colleague wasn’t as lucky. About the same time Sacramento Police were talking to Sharmelia’s dad, Phoenix Police were pulling into the driveway of hospital chaplain Sue Wintz and husband, Michael, to tell them that their daughter Sarah was killed in an automobile wreck.
As a hospital chaplain with a daughter by the same name, I was beginning to become aware that I may have somehow created my own rule which says that God protects people whose high calling involves the altruistic and idealistic. Of course, I know that notion is far from the truth – but it’s been comfortable to hold onto over the years.
This week, painfully conscious that I enjoyed no special protection from God, I waited for my daughter’s return from New York. My worries began when I learned that some whacko greeted her arrival in NY by cracking her windshield with a rock thrown from an overpass.
After learning of all the bad days fathers were having, I felt an extra chill of reality when I heard NY was socked in with a major blizzard — I heard nothing from my daughter for three days. Then, her phone call telling me she was boarding her return flight coincided with the latest news from the Homeland Security warning that terrorists might attempt to smuggle bomb-making material in their socks and roll-on deodorant. It had all the makings of a really bad day.
Later that evening, my daugther called to pacify my worries and tell me that she made it home safely. She seemed a bit annoyed with my smothering, mothering, and concern, but she managed to give me the latest news. After hanging up the phone, my wife asked, “You OK, honey?”
“I guess so, but I think she’ll be going back to New York sometime in the near future.”
“Yup — she now has a boyfriend in New York.”
It’s been a tough week for fathers.