Sometimes, letting go is the hardest task there is. Today is one of those days. Today I say good bye to my little girl.
I still remember the day that she was born, all wrinkled and red. She had me wrapped around her little finger from that first moment when she looked at me with her clear blue eyes. It was love at first sight, and I was in deep. My love for her was surpassed only by my love for my wife, and my Lord.
As Kelsey grew, somehow, so did my love for her. I remember clearly the day that she got so sick that we almost lost her. The doctors fought for her life, while her mother and I petitioned God. I almost wore a hole in the knees of my trousers pleading to God on her behalf. Her recovery was slow, but before long she was all sunshine and smiles. My little girl.
The memories flood my mind in rapid succession. Her first hair cut. Her first day of school. When she rode her bicycle for the first time, and skinned her knees. Her and that crazy dog that she loved so much. Her grief when the dog was hit by a car, and died in her arms. Her first sleepover. Her first fight with her girlfriends. Her junior high track meet, where she beat everyone in the 500 meter dash. Her high school choir concert, where she wowed everyone with that solo. Her graduation day.
A hand touches my shoulder, drawing me from my reverie.
“It’s time, Jim.” My pastor says before walking away. I square my shoulders and knock on the door at the end of the hall. Female voices titter on the other side of the door.
“Who is it?” My wife’s voice carries through the closed portal.
“It’s time.” I say, waiting for the door to open. When it does, I can hardly control the emotions that threaten to overcome me. There, in the center of the room, is my little girl all dressed in white. The bridesmaids file out of the room, preparing for the processional. My wife gives Kelsey as hug. She squeezes my hand as she leaves the room.
“You look beautiful.”
“You look terrible.” She giggles at me. “Couldn’t you at least smile? This isn’t my funeral.” But in a way, it is. I’m losing you.
I force a smile and offer her my arm. We take our place waiting for the long walk down the aisle. If only I could keep my heart from hurting. If only I could see past the veil of tears that keeps blurring my vision.
And then it’s time. Everyone stands as we make our way to the front of the sanctuary. Every eye is on my little girl. The walk is far too short.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God and the face to these witnesses to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” As the pastor continues speaking, I look at the profile of the girl standing next to me. Where have the years gone? When did she transform into this beautiful woman? My vision blurs and before I’m ready, the minister is saying the words I’ve been dreading.
“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”
I swallow past the lump in my throat. “Her mother and I do.”
I lift her veil slightly, and look into the face of my little girl. After this moment, she will be mine no longer. I bend down and kiss her rosy cheek, as I have done so many times.
“I love you, Daddy!” she whispers in my ear. “I always will.”
I give her arm to the young man at the altar, the man who has promised to love and protect her, the man who is about to become my son. I make my way back to my seat, forgotten by everyone as they watch the young couple in hushed anticipation. I smile through the tears. Sometimes, letting go is actually gaining more.
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