Four hardest words a father can say

Published 7:52 am Wednesday, November 4, 2009

(Read to the author’s daughter on her wedding day)

Having attended 100 weddings and heard 100 fathers asked the question “Who gives this woman away?” with hardly a thought on my part, tonight it took on far greater significance. For tonight, this question was asked of me.

On the surface, I gave that answer we so regularly hear on such occasions, “Her mother and I.”

But underneath, I desired to give a far different answer. With all my being, I wanted to say “No. A thousand times, no.”

How could I give you away, Leah?

You — my daughter — who has brought such joy into my life?

You, who was lifted out of that incubator at the hospital 25 years ago and handed to us and we brought you home and you were ours. Without saying a word or lifting a finger, you thrilled our hearts, Leah.

You, who I taught to ride a bike as your blonde hair blew in the wind and you laughed.

You, who would put on a new dress just for me to hear me say how beautiful you were. And you would smile and bask.

You, who brought me empty buckets to fill with sweet corn. And you weren’t much bigger than the buckets.

You, who once thought I had all the answers in the world. Eventually, you found I didn’t.

You, who has long treasured authenticity wherever it could be found.

You, who discovered art and came alive.

You, who embraced the God that made you.

You, who says “Dad” like no one else in the world has ever said it. And no one ever will.

You, who are woven into the fabric of my life.

Give you away? How could I?

But then again, how selfish of me! I knew — deep down — that I could never keep you forever.

Those such as you — especially you— were never meant to be kept but rather to be released. For only in that are you able to touch other’s lives as you have touched ours.

So, we release you, Leah. Into this young man’s arms, we release you.

But know this as you go: Were I to have 1,000 daughters in 1,000 years, I could never have a daughter quite like you.

I love you.

— Dad