I was the first one to hold you as you made your way into the world. Seeing you take your first breath and hearing you cry for the first time gave me even more faith in God. I was only beginning to know you but God already knew all about you and what kind of person you would turn out to be. And I am so blessed and thankful that he trusted me to raise you. You were always a happy baby and toddler and your smile is what I remember most. I recall walking into your room one morning to wake you up when you were still in your baby bed, and there you were, standing up smiling at me, as I opened the door.
I remember dropping you off at your first day of day care and you cried as I left you. What you don’t know, is that I also cried as I left you, and I cried all the way to work. When I picked you up that afternoon, you ran to me with your arms stretched out wide and you jumped into my arms. It never crossed my mind that one day you would be all grown up. I just thought of you as my little girl and I couldn’t bear to think of that ever changing.
As you grew into school age, you were confident and ready to start school. I noticed early on that you always cared for and made friends with kids that didn’t have many friends. You were always very thoughtful and kind and showed great compassion for others. That has always been something that you have done throughout your life. Your compassion for the people of Haiti is something that I am so proud of. I always had faith that each time you traveled there, that God would use you in a special way and would bring you back home safely.
I remember you deciding where you wanted to go to college and I remember thinking that Berry College was just too far away. I guess that I wasn’t ready to have you leave your home and go out into the world for the first time on your own. I took you to the two day orientation and I wondered how I could let go of you as you began to find your way in the world. We moved you in your dorm and I remember me and mom and your two younger sisters just hanging around not wanting to leave. We had all made a pact that we would not cry and somehow we were able to fight back the tears while we were in your dorm room. After we said our goodbyes and left, I remember all of us feeling very sad that we were leaving you. We got into the car and began to drive away and I looked at mom and she looked at me and we both began to cry. Your sisters joined in as well and we cried for about ten minutes as we drove away from the college. But you would be all right and you would grow in ways that we could never imagine.
You graduated college and went on to get your master’s degree and I remember crying tears of joy at both of those graduations. You brought so much joy to my life and I was so proud of you and all that you had accomplished. You were all grown up now but I still thought of you as my little girl. After grad school you didn’t find a job right away and we were ok with that because you lived at home with us and helped us with your sisters. I knew and hoped that one day you would get a job but it sure was nice to have you at home with us as long as we could. After a few months you were so excited when you were called about a job in Savannah. You interviewed for the job in Savannah and got the position and told us that you had to find a place to live and start your new job in two weeks!
You found an apartment in Savannah and we moved you into your new place. It was really hitting me now that you were all grown up and your days of living at home had come to an end. Mom and I went to the grocery store to buy you some more groceries while your grandma and sisters helped you unpack. We finished shopping and got back to your apartment and immediately began dreading to say our goodbyes. Mom and I were trying to be strong and not cry, at least not in front of you. We were almost ready to leave and suddenly one of your sisters burst into tears as she hugged you goodbye and all of us were crying. I didn’t want to leave you but I knew that God had great things in store for you and I trusted him to take care of you and watch over you when I couldn’t.
A year and a half later, you were engaged to a great guy and you began to make plans to start a life with him. I remember feeling joy, not sadness, when he asked me for my permission to ask you to marry him. I knew that the two of you would create a wonderful life together and I was happy for you. The wedding day still seemed far away.
Now, on the day before the wedding, it seems like this day got here really fast. It’s appropriate that you are getting married at the chapel on the same college campus where you received your undergrad degree. I remember telling you several times that I would love to do a service in that chapel. I just didn’t think that it would be your wedding.
As we go through the rehearsal tonight, I will try to maintain my composure. I don’t know what kind of emotions I will be feeling as we get closer to the day of your wedding, because I haven’t done this kind of thing before. As we stand there before we go down the aisle, I have visualized myself getting emotional. As I give your hand to your future husband, I will be happy for you but I will also be giving you away, so I don’t know exactly what I will be feeling. And as I perform your ceremony, I will have to be the minister, but I will also be your dad – so there may come a time when I get a little emotional. I don’t know what emotions will be going through me when I pronounce you married and watch you walk down that aisle, away from me with your new husband. I will be smiling but I also may be crying, happy tears of course. And when we have our father/daughter dance, if I have not cried already, it may come then. More than likely I will break down and cry when I watch you and your husband drive away from the ceremony at the same college that we left you and drove back home over six years ago. But like then, I know that you will be ok and that you will be happy. May God forever bless you and your marriage and bring joy and peace to your life. I am a blessed man that God has allowed me to be your father and I hope that God will allow me to be around long enough to be a grandfather to what I know will be some wonderful kids!